Friday, December 18, 2009

Teens Choose Marriage, Tolerate Unmarried Childbearing

One of my central contentions as a centrist is that we can and should make a distinction between the good and the tolerable. Many people want to follow the common, traditional, normal path for themselves, but tolerate other paths for other people.

One encouraging piece of evidence for this contention comes from the views of teenagers reported in The State of Our Unions 2009. When asked if they thought that most people will have fuller and happier lives if they choose legal marriage rather than staying single or just living with someone, almost forty percent of girls and a third of boys said yes. This proportion has been rising.

At the same time, when these teens were asked whether having a child out of wedlock is "experimenting with a worthwhile lifestyle or not affecting anyone else," just over half of girls and boys said yes. These proportions have also been rising.

Now, I think the majority of teens are wrong in thinking that having a child out of wedlock doesn't affect anyone else. And I would strongly counsel anyone not to experiment with that lifestyle.

My point is that most teens are willing to accept experiments with unusual family practices, even as they themselves increasingly think that most people would be happier making families the traditional way. We do not have to make all ethical decisions based on what we ourselves do or want. We can choose for ourselves the way that we thinks works best for most people, while tolerating other practices in society.

6 comments:

Kelly said...

Anyone who thinks having a child in or out of wedlock won't have an effect on everything else is crazy!

Pearl said...

I would think the majority of adults as well choose marriage and tolerate unmarried childbearing. What else can we do. What do you mean by tolerate?

Gruntled said...

By tolerate I mean "accept as good enough, even though it is not the best." I elaborate in the post that I link to at the beginning of this post, part of the "Gruntled Center Manifesto" at the top left of every GC page.

Gruntled said...

Kelly: I think the question was not whether having a child would affect anything else in your life, but whether it would affect anyone else outside your family.

Anonymous said...

These young people are not tolerating the unmarried child-bearers but approving of them.
They think it as a worthwhile experiment. To tolerate means to disagree with but allow. They are not disagreeing with the behavior but just think it isn't the best way.To tolerate this behavior one would allow it but not think it is worthwhile.

gruntled said...

Well, we can't say definitively from this one survey. I think it means that these teens think unmarried childbearing might be OK - for other people.