Thursday, May 19, 2011

Costs of Married Parents?

I asked my "Introduction to Family Life" class to consider the costs and benefits of the most common type of family - a married couple and their children - and the several major variants that we studied. They did a good job considering the costs and benefits of the variants. On the most common type, though, several of them came to this considered judgment (I am quoting from one exam):

There are not real costs to marriage and a two parent household, there are only benefits.

I was taken aback by this. Not really because I disagree, but because I am used to thinking that all arrangements have costs as well as benefits.

I would be interested in your thoughts on this question and answer.


Victoria Wheeler said...

Is the idea truly that there are no costs, or that the "costs" are so outweighed by the benefits that they bring that in the sum total, there is overall no real "loss"?

gruntled said...

I believe what this particular student meant was that there are no social costs. There might be individual costs (loss of freedom) but they are outweighed by the benefits.

Thomas said...

It's possible these students come from a broken home, and may be idealizing the traditional family. A cost I see is that with a traditional family (as opposed to 1-parent), there is a temptation to insulate the family from the rest of the society - an attempt to get all your social needs met from within the family. Stephanie Coontz in "The Way We Never Were" discusses this at length.

Brendan said...

Someone who says there is no real cost to marriage has never tried to pay for a wedding.

(I am being flippant, but it was in part your discussion of phenomena like "Marry Your Baby Daddy Day" that made me aware of such barriers to entry in the first place.)

Victoria Wheeler said...

Though, Brendan, that is again an individual cost. (I realize you know this as you're being flippant.)

Honestly, I'm hard-pressed to think of negatives to the traditional family in terms of overall societal outcome. What Thomas has said is certainly interesting, but I never would have thought of it.