The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
3 Points

Marriage is an outdated institution that no longer reflects modern society

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/12/2013 Category: Society
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 8,986 times Debate No: 37633
Debate Rounds (3)
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Marriage no longer represents the institution it was intended to be. It has positives than it could be said about it, but I suggest that these are no longer relevant in modern societal context.

One of the key points that supporters of marriage cite is the idea of marriage as backbone of family. Currently, the definition of a family is at it's most fluid. With single parents and homosexual couples on the rise, the concept that a "family" can only be a man and a woman has become antiquated. Also on the rise is divorce. This can easily be attributed to the lack of meaning in marriage vows these days. 'Till death do us part' no longer applies.

Even if marriage were to be considered as a demonstration of feeling to others, what more does it say in today's society? People will live together, have children, and be seen as faithful and committed without the addition of marriage to it. What more is added by marriage as an institution? It should also be considered, if marriage (the physical presence of which is a piece of paper and a ring of metal) adds a significant amount to the relationship, what does that say to the relationship?


Thank you for creating this topic, Pro, and welcome to DDO. I look forward to a lively debate.

As my opponent used his first round to state the rationale for his argument, and did not indicate that the first round was only for acceptance, I will assume I may proceed directly into my case.

Pro has taken the position that marriage is no longer relevant in a modern societal context. I believe that with his statements, Pro is reaching far beyond any defensible position. Perhaps it could reasonably be argued that marriage has declined in importance, or that its meaning has evolved, but to pronounce it dead or doomed is hardly warranted. The data shows otherwise [1]. As the 2009 data from the CDC shows, yes there was a drop in the number of both births and marriages from 2008 to 2009, however this is a drop of only 3.7%. This still leaves over 2 million marriages taking place in just 2009 alone. The obvious question that Pro has to deal with is why something as expensive, time consuming, and stressful as marriage would be taking place more than 2 million times each year if it were really no longer relevant.

The data additionally shows us that married couples on average produce more stable environments for child rearing, and that people in marriages tend to be more prosperous, well educated, and have longer lifespans [2][3][4].

There are of course risks with marriage, as with anything else. If the marriage is a high conflict and dysfunctional one, then the stress of it can actually cause greater health problems and shorter life. Nevertheless, marriage remains an extremely important institution in American/Western modern life, and is the most likely institution to bring about successful and psychologically healthy children - considerably more likely than cohabitation.





Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for your response. Having presented my initial statement, I will respond to your points and further evidence my own.

Con presents a strong case that the prevalence of marriage is an indication that, despite its 'expensive, time consuming, and stressful' nature, it still remains relevant. They also have added that the data shows that 2009 had over 2 million marriages. However, in that same year, the data from the CDC also shows 840,000 divorces or annulments [1]. This would suggest that simply in that year, per 1000 people of the population measured, 6.8 people got married, with 3.5 getting divorced. The question, I suggest, should not be why did 2 million people do it, but who would the equivalent of 51% of them go through that inconvenience and expense at all? Couple this with the fact that the marriage rate is on the decline, and marriages represent the actions of only 0.68% of the population within my opponents chosen year for data, it would appear fairly irrelevant currently.

My opponent also argued that married couples produce a more stable environment for children. While this is true on the baseline data, a further analysis offers a different conclusions. Factors such as cultural norms, race, age etc all make a difference. "Once we take these factors into account, there are no longer any statistically significant differences in these child outcomes between children of married and cohabiting parents" is the conclusion of the Institute for Fiscal Studies research into "Cohabitation, Marriage and Child Outcomes" [2]. If Cohabiting presents as much positivity as marriage would, what then is gained by marriage as an ideal?

In relation to the way in which people in marriages tend to be (prosperous, well educated and have longer lifespans), there is little evidence in the sources provided to conclusively say that this is the effect of marriage. Rather, this shows a correlative relationship between these factors and not a causation one. Put simply, there is nothing to say that more prosperous people don't simply chose marriage, in the same way less educated people may chose not to be married. It goes towards the strength of an argument to say marriage is a social trend for specific groups of people, but says nothing as to the inherent benefit of marriage itself.

As opposed to cohabitation, marriage has an added legal element to it. This added element of the need for divorce in the event of a permanent separation, creates a situation which I suggest is more difficult to leave from. We can agree that if the marriage is that of high conflict, there is the potential for further problematic issues, but i do not believe that these issues are fully transferable to cohabitation. In the paper "Prevalence of Domestic Violence in the United States" by Wilt et al [3] an important difference should be noted. The higher number of domestic violence incidences are shown by 'Husbands' as opposed to 'cohabits' and 'male partners'. If it can be agreed that modern society considers domestic violence to be a an ideal we should strive to distance ourselves from, then it is right that any institution which increases the frequency of that should also be considered something we should be moving away from.



Thank you, Pro.

As to the question of whether marriage causes developmental success in children, I will offer some defense of my stated view that it does, though I won’t spend a great deal of time on it because it is not directly the resolution that I need to focus on in order to win this debate; it is the icing, not the cake. But for now, let me start by drawing your attention to another topic of intense statistical examination: tobacco. Because of the relative ease of demonstrating correlation, and the difficulty in proving causation, tobacco companies were able to successfully persuade many people for decades that yes, there may be a correlation between smokers and heart or lung disease, but based on the data there’s no conclusive evidence showing that smoking causes those diseases. I use this as a precedent to show that just one study doesn’t conclusively prove that marriage fails to cause better outcomes for children than cohabitation. After more research is done we may eventually demonstrate causality. The authors of Pro’s source point out that there has been little research on causation. With respect to causality, they go on to say:

The clearest potential – but debatable – causal pathway between parents’ formal marital status and children’s social and emotional development allowed for by our work is therefore early relationship quality. To show that this is indeed a causal pathway, it would need to be established that marriage leads to large improvements in relationship quality by the time the child is 9 months old, which in turn lead to better social and emotional outcomes for children. This cannot be ascertained from our current study.”

Their results are not, and do not claim to be, conclusive. My point is that more data is needed, but in the meantime neither my view nor my opponents’ is defeated by the data alone.

Where I think my opponent is decisively defeated is in his interpretation of what marriage and divorce rates mean. Specifically he points to a failure/divorce rate of 51% and acts as if it negates the value of marriage and makes it obsolete. Contrast this with an economic example: 95% of new companies fail. By the sort of logic my opponent uses, no one should then ever start a business, and the idea itself is obsolete. Not only is it now, but it always has been obsolete, or at least since 1957 when the failure rate was 51% (assuming that is the threshold for obsolescence in my opponent’s view) [5]. If that were right, and if the founders of Google, Apple, Walmart, Microsoft, and Home Depot agreed with that mentality, none of those businesses, which employ millions, would be around today.

As Teddy Roosevelt wrote these immortal words about failure and risk:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. [6]

In the case of marriage, the man in the arena is more likely to have his face marred by spit ups than dust and blood, but you get the idea. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And as long as I’m striking upon a patriotic theme, my opponent mentioned his dismissal of the value of marriage as being nothing more than a piece of paper and a metal ring. But then, is the flag nothing more than a piece of cloth on a metal pole? Is it obsolete? Why have men and women laid down their lives for it, and why do they still? For human beings, symbols matter, because these things represent larger but less tangible ideas. The flag is not just a cloth. It is an ideal, and its meaning tied not to the physical material it is composed of, but to the resolve and values of those who raise it high. When people come from war torn, impoverished, or politically oppressed homelands and see the statue of liberty, it is not just metal, it is a symbol of hope.

Marriage is much the same. It is the vows of commitment that are the real source of strength in a relationship. It is true that marriage is no guarantee that the trust and commitment in the relationship can never be compromised. Moreover, marriage is not the only way to make such a commitment. However, the fact that many who divorce try again and get married a second time is a testament to the enduring nature of hope and love, and the position of marriage as a unique vehicle for those emotions.

Marriage is much more commonplace than my opponent suggests. Figure the adult marriageable life as lasting about 50 years (age 18 to age 68ish). Some are married older or younger, but I’m just ball parking it. So to get an idea of the probability of someone randomly not getting married in a given year, it is 1 - .0068, or .9932. Sounds like no one is getting married, right? But that’s only for one year. What about the probability that someone is unmarried 2 years from now. That’s .9932 * .9932 = .98644. Now play that out over the 60 years and we get .9932 ^ 60 = only 0.66! In other words, there’s a 66% chance that the person will spend their whole adult life unmarried. That leaves 34% that will get married at some point – hardly a negligible proportion of the population! Moreover, these are of course only estimates and inaccurate projections, because the probability of marriage does not remain constant throughout a person’s life – it spikes much higher than this in the late 20’s and early 30’s. The actual number of people who are married over the age of 20 is about half of the population. Admittedly the number used to be considerably higher, but don’t count it out by any means. [7]

I lastly want to reiterate that my burden is not to demonstrate that marriage yields superior results to cohabitation. To illustrate my point, imagine a plane ride from Dallas to New York. You could take coach, or you could pay much more money to sit in first class. Either way will get you to the positive result of arriving in New York. Overall, my opponent might see more merit in the value of coach over the comfort of first class, but the fact of his preference doesn’t make it fair to say that first class is obsolete! As long as there are large numbers of people in line paying to sit first class, it is not obsolete. If no one was paying for it, and airlines didn’t bother offering it, then that’s something we could call obsolete. But as long as it has at least some benefits that alternatives do not (in the case of marriage, these are legal or economic as well as social), then it is a viable option.

So as I close, let me be clear – I am not putting words in Pro’s mouth. I do not assume that he actually believes entrepreneurship is dead or saluting the flag is pointless, or that first class flying is obsolete. However, I have given strong reason to believe that one would have to hold those kinds of positions in order to remain logically consistent with the criteria he is using to try to establish the obsolescence of marriage. I also want to be clear that I am not contending that marriage is the only meaningful expression of love. That is not the resolution. The resolution is that marriage is obsolete, and I’ve seen no reason to be convinced that it is.




Debate Round No. 2


Psykaze forfeited this round.


Extend all arguments.
Debate Round No. 3
No comments have been posted on this debate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by TheHitchslap 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: forefit also CR showed the benefits of marriage and it's significance today (mostly in providing a stable environment for children)