The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Why the Jaundiced View towards Wedlock?

Bryce J. Christensen and Robert W. Patterson

Why do so many young African Americans view marriage with suspicion and distrust? Seeking to answer this question, researchers from the University of Georgia parsed data collected over a number of years from 867 African-American families living in Georgia, each family including a fifth-grader at the study’s beginning.

Analysis of the data revealed that young African Americans form negative attitudes toward wedlock because of the influence of a diverse range of “adverse circumstances”—including “harsh parenting, family instability, discrimination, criminal victimization, and financial hardship.” Together, these adverse circumstances foster “distrustful relational schemas,” manifest in “troubled dating relationships,” which, in turn, incubates “a less positive view of marriage.”

Perhaps nothing in this troubling chain of causation merits more sober attention than the indication that it is the shadow of their own parents’ failure to keep a marriage together that particularly darkens young African-Americans’ attitudes towards wedlock. The researchers report that “parental marital instability” predicts negative outlooks on marriage among young African Americans, particularly males (p < 0.01 for young men; p < 0.1 for young women).

It would appear that reversing the retreat from marriage among African Americans is now, tragically, self-feeding.

(Ronald L. Simons et al., “Relational Schemas, Hostile Romantic Relationships, and Beliefs about Marriage among Young African American Adults,” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 29.1 [February 2012]: 77–101.)