I decided to delve into the world of traditionalists for a couple of days (mostly of the Islamic fundamentalist bent) and I found a common theme.
Universally, traditionalists feel strongly about the topics of marriage, “Social cohesion” and civilization at large; this could range from “Western civilization” to the “Ummah”.
They generally have a strong disdain towards liberalism, as many different groups do for different reasons. The leftist critique of liberalism is typically centered around Capitalism, whereas the traditionalist critique of liberalism is largely centered around secularism and feminism.
To summarize the traditionalist viewpoint, here is a wrap up:
“Marriages are being destroyed by secular, feminist values through higher divorce rates and births out of wedlock. In turn, this destroys our communities and civilization at large.”
This concern is partially due to the spike of divorce rates in the past couple of decades, which traditionalists generally perceive as an inherently bad thing.
Non-traditionalist don’t typically share this view, as they perceive divorce as a better alternative than to remain in unfit marriages.
With that said, one could also reassure traditionalists by pointing out that marriages today are lasting longer than they have since the beginning of the divorce spike.
“The marriage rate has also fallen over the last several decades. But Cohen calculates the divorce rate as a ratio of divorces to the total number of married women. So, the divorce rate’s decline isn’t a reflection of a decline in marriages. Rather, it’s evidence that marriages today have a greater chance of lasting than marriages did ten years ago.”
One could argue that it was a necessary step to root out of unfit marriages and progress towards an era of stronger marriages; as the case is today.
It is also worth noting that the vast majority of divorces do not lead to long-term, negative effects on their children, and it is overall healthier than to remain in a dysfunctional marriage.
As for concerns on whether there is a correlation between “births out of wedlock” and the destruction of “social cohesion” and overall well-being, we can take a look at the countries with the highest rates of births out of wedlock and analyse the “sense of community”, development and overall life satisfaction among those communities.
According to the OECD – The country with the strongest “sense of community” in Europe is Iceland (along with some of the lowest crime rates worldwide), though it also happens to have the world’s third highest rates of births out of wedlock.
The country with the single highest rates of births out of wedlock is Chile, which also has the single highest human development in all of Latin America.
Costa Rica has the second highest rates of births out of wedlock, and like Chile – it has one of the highest levels of human development and some of the lowest crime rates in all of Latin America.
As for reports on life satisfaction and emotional well-being, the outcomes vary based on the report.
Scandinavian countries largely top The Happiness Index, whereas Latin American countries such as Mexico and Costa Rica, (where births out of wedlock are among the highest) largely top “Gallup Global Emotion” report.
Muslim nations (Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, Iran, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, etc) are not within the top of either of those lists (with the exception of Indonesia); even when accounting for differences in gdp per capita, and despite having some the most traditional marital and family structures.
It is also worth noting that Scandinavian countries are also among the most developed in the globe, though among the most “secular and feminist”.
Traditionalists put a high emphasis on the “importance of marriage and family” on mental, social, and cultural well being; while perceiving non-marital tendencies (sex out of wedlock, divorce, birth out of wedlock, etc) as unfavourable and destructive on every level.
Meanwhile, the reports suggest that “tradition” plays a far less important role than it is credited for, if any role at all.
A comprehrnsive study on more than 12,000 couples along with a review of 18 papers on happiness, life and relationship satisfaction concluded the following:
“The “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology” showed that people who married experienced no greater well-being than when they were single. At best, they felt a bit more satisfied as newlyweds. But even this honeymoon effect declines over time.”
Another multilevel analysis of 32 European countries showcases that the advantages of marriage are primarily tied to deep human interactions in general, and can occur independently from marriage.
“Researcher Elyakim Kislev looked at surveys administered in 32 European countries between 2002 and 2016. People reported on their marital status, as well as their social capital—the amount of social activities and social interactions they engaged in. In the survey, social interactions included meeting socially with friends, relatives, or work colleagues. They also reported on how happy they were on a scale from 1 to 10.
Unsurprisingly, Kislev found that unmarried people—including those who are divorced, widowed, or never married—tend to have more social interactions with friends, relatives, and colleagues than married people.
He also found that the more social interactions people engage in, the happier they are—even more so for single people than married people.
He goes on to state, “Singles who pursue social interactions more proactively than do couples can bypass them in the happiness index.” While married people were happier on average than unmarried people, those unmarried people who showed the highest levels of social capital were happier than the average married person.
For unmarried individuals, in other words, social capital may provide a source of support and belonging that can replace—and sometimes overshoot—the emotional benefits of having a spouse.”
Personally, I hold the opinion that “traditionalists” (men, in particular) uphold traditional marriages for the same reason they largely uphold capitalism – they want the closest things possible to free labor.
That’s a topic for another day.