It is often claimed today that all relationships are equally beneficial, as long as each are chosen by the individual and people are allowed to live freely in them. Singleness, cohabitation, same-sex partnerships, polyamory and sexual experimentation are all equal, because after all, love wins.

The only problem with this assertion is the social sciences do not support it. They have demonstrated over the last 50 years that some relationships clearly produce much better outcomes for children, women, men and society than others. A wealth of data shows the cooperative dynamic between husbands and wives in marriage is what produces these benefits. There is no close competitor.

The scholars at the Institute for Family Studies explain how a new book, working from an evolutionary psychological perspective, demonstrates how men raising their biological children in marriage with the mother makes for better, more responsible men. The author, Samuel T. Wilkinson, associate professor at Yale University’s school of medicine, contends,

A very large body of research demonstrates that when men are engaged in helping rear their biological children, they are more likely to behave in prosocial ways. They are less likely to commit crimes, less likely to be violent, less likely to drink alcohol or consume drugs.

He adds,

Fatherhood seems to channel male energy and aggression toward constructive and prosocial ends. Indeed, across cultures, becoming a father has been observed to lead men to become less selfish and more socially responsible.

And it is the healthy, marital link to their child’s mother that serves as the strongest glue between father and child. This is because, universally across human experience, the mother serves as the primary gate-keeper of a father’s access to his child. Seldom does a father succeed at fatherhood if the child’s mother does not want him involved. He is far more likely to be involved with her encouragement and marriage is the best foundation for establishing that daily involvement.

This is because, as Wilkinson explains, “nature has created an imbalance in the strength of biological ties between men and women and their children.” The woman, as mother, has a profoundly greater natural advantage here, given the long, deeply intimate connection of gestation, childbirth, feeding and care.

“A strong social and cultural commitment is needed to link men to their children and enhance their role as fathers” writes Wilkinson, and “for most of history, the institution of marriage has served this express purpose.” This is because “one of the principal aims of marriage is to link a man to his biological children by linking him to the mother of those children.”

This makes men, marriage and parenting a package deal across nearly all human civilizations. Nobel prize winning economist George Akerlof explained in a major academic paper published years ago, that “men settle down when they get married and if they fail to get married, they fail to settle down.” Unmarried fathers are also far less likely to be connected to their children in meaningful ways. And married fatherhood makes for better men. Akerlof reports,

Married men are more attached to the labor force, they have less substance abuse, they commit less crime, are less likely to become the victims of crime, have better health, and are less accident prone.

Wilkinson’s current work re-establishes this long finding, explaining in his new book,

Overall, our understanding of the importance of marriage and fatherhood in helping men to behave in prosocial ways provides a strong impetus to use social policies and other measures to encourage men to become responsible husbands and fathers.

All domestic and sexual relationships are not equal. Some clearly bring greater good to society and the people in those relationships. Married fatherhood is superior for children, men themselves and the women they are wedded to.


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