Patrick F. Fagan, director of the Center for Research on Marriage and Religion, described how stable marriages and families benefit society at a discussion hosted by True Love Revolution, a student advocacy group that promotes premarital abstinence.
In his three-part lecture “Will You Marry Me? Restoring a Culture of Marriage,” Fagan used data from national surveys conducted between 2000 and 2008 to demonstrate the relationships between marriage and different societal institutions including government, education, religion, and the economy. He said that strong married couples produced more stable families and children.
“Kids thrive when Mom and Dad are happy,” Fagan said, arguing that children raised by married couples are better prepared to succeed in society outside their families.
According to the data Fagan presented, which included analyses of differences between racial and socioeconomic groups, children from intact families have higher GPAs and are less likely to be incarcerated. Additionally, Fagan compared the impact of a divorce on a household’s financial situation with the impact of the Great Depression on the U.S. economy.
Fagan cited national trends that show decreasing sexual activity among young people, which he said gave reason for optimism. He expressed support for groups like True Love Revolution and encouraged them to frame the debate and use social science resources at Harvard to acquire data to advance their arguments.
“There is a change taking place and it’s going in the right direction,” he said.
During the question and answer session after the lecture, a number of audience members asked Fagan to elaborate on his views about homosexuality, but he declined to do so, saying that he was only referring to heterosexual relationships during the lecture.
Some audience members said they felt that Fagan had omitted important issues related to family stability. “I think the biggest thing is he didn’t address [social] class,” Natalia M. Renta ’11 said.