As 2016 draws to a close, and many of us prepare to celebrate Christmas and the New Year with our family and friends, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 most popular Family Studies blog posts of the year (beginning with the most popular first). Our most-read posts cover a wide range of topics related to family well-being, including the impact of religious service attendance on marriage, what it’s like to be a single, childless woman in today’s world, the value of thrift, and Millennials and porn.
Whether you are reading your favorite posts again (or some for the first time), we hope you will share these posts in your circle of influence, including on social media.
1. Nicholas H. Wolfinger: “Counterintuitive Trends in the Link Between Premarital Sex and Marital Stability”
This IFS research brief by University of Utah sociologist Nicholas Wolfinger is not only our number one post of 2016 but also one our top 20 posts of all time. Using data from three recent waves of the National Survey of Family Growth, Wolfinger explores how premarital sex affects marital stability, particularly in light of changing American attitudes and sexual behavior. While he found that premarital sex with one partner substantially increases the odds of divorce, he also found that women with 3-9 partners were less likely to divorce than women with 2 partners. (June 2016)
2. Ashley McGuire: “Justice Antonin Scalia on Family Life”
Our second most popular post of 2016 was published shortly after the unexpected death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. More than just one of the most respected Supreme Court justices of all time, Justice Scalia was also the father of nine children and the grandfather of 36. Regular IFS contributor Ashley McGuire spotlights his noble family life to glean seven timeless lessons from Justice Scalia that are definitely worth another look during the holiday season. (February 2016)
3. Bethany Jenkins: “Reflections on Turning 40 While Single and Childless”
We were honored to have The Gospel Coalition’s (TGC) Bethany Jenkins join us as a guest contributor for a personal reflection that ended up being our third most popular post of 2016. In this beautifully honest essay, Bethany shares the “disenfranchised grief” she has experienced as a single, childless woman in her early 40s, and how her faith has helped her work through the many complex choices facing unmarried women today. If you have not had the opportunity to read Bethany’s post, we encourage you to do so and to share it with your single friends. (October 2016)
4. David Lapp: “The State of Savings in an Age of Excess”
IFS research fellow David Lapp tackles an issue facing both upper and lower income families today: a lack of savings. As Lapp notes, four in 10 American households lack savings, even though one study found that over 60 percent have faced some type of financial shock in the past year. Lapp argues convincingly that we all need to practice a little more thrift—advice we can all use as we head into 2017. (January 2016)
5. Alysse ElHage: “Millennials, Infidelity, and Porn”
I report on data from the National Center for Marriage and Family Research at Bowling Green State University (NCMFR) to question whether Millennial attitudes about infidelity have anything to do with their use and approval of porn. I argue that our efforts to strengthen marriage should include an honest look at the messages porn sends about sex and relationships, and the potential threat porn poses to healthy family life. (August 2016)
6. W. Bradford Wilcox, Nicholas H. Wolfinger, and Charles E. Stokes: “The Role of Culture in Declining Marriage Rates”
“Neither economic changes nor public policy can wholly explain the retreat from marriage,” write IFS Senior Fellow W. Bradford Wilcox, Nicholas Wolfinger, and Charles Stokes in our sixth most-read post of 2016. Responding to a popular progressive argument regarding marriage trends, the authors show that “shifts in attitudes, aspirations, and norms, coupled with declining participation in secular and religious civic institutions have undercut the social pressure to marry, to have children within marriage, and to stay married.” (March 2016)
7. Anna Sutherland: “For Kids, Large Families Have Pros and Cons”
In this piece, former Family-Studies editor (and current contributor) Anna Sutherland explores new research showing that “gaining siblings modestly reduces children’s educational attainment.” To balance out these findings, Sutherland points to previous research, which indicates that growing up in large families boosts children’s social skills and reduces their risk of divorce as adults. (January 2016)
8. W. Bradford Wilcox: “Maxim Masculinity: One Legacy of the Divorce Revolution”
IFS Senior Fellow W. Bradford Wilcox responds to attacks on his “Be a Man: Get Married” PragerU video by men’s rights activists. According to Wilcox, “a large minority of men are ambivalent or openly hostile towards virtues like sacrifice, commitment, and love.” While some of this hostility may be due to “Peter Pan Syndrome,” Wilcox argues that it can also be attributed to the legacy of divorce. If you have not read this post or seen the popular video that started it all, be sure to check out both here. (May 2016)
9. Tyler J. VanderWeele: “Religious Service Attendance, Marriage, and Health”
Harvard University professor Tyler J. VanderWeele shares his research on how religious service attendance affects marital stability and health. One of his key findings is that married couples who attend religious services are about 30 to 50 percent less likely to divorce than those who do not. VanderWeele also offers five reasons for the positive effects of religious service attendance. (November 2016)
10. W. Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas H. Wolfinger: “Better Together: Religious Attendance, Gender, and Relationship Quality”
W. Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas Wolfinger cap off our top 10 list with another post on the link between religion and healthy relationships. This IFS research brief extends an analysis of black and Latino couples that Wilcox and Wolfinger conducted for their latest book, Soul Mates, to the American public. One of their most interesting findings is that shared prayer is even more strongly associated with higher relationship quality than shared religious service attendance. (February 2016)
Thanks for taking a look back with us at our top 10 blog posts of 2016 and for your interest in the work of the Institute for Family Studies! We look forward to sharing more valuable insights and research findings on marriage and families in the coming year.