Black Interests

How Does Marriage Benefit African American Men?


Editorial Contribution by Sally Writes

Marriage rates have declined in the U.S. over the past seven decades, with around 78.8% of all households in 1949 containing married couples compared to 48.2% of all households in 2019. The downward trend is more pronounced in black Americans and in Hispanics than in whites. As stated in a study published in the Journal of Family Issues (JFI), however, “black men benefit from healthy, satisfying marriages in terms of physical, mental, and financial well-being. What are some of the dominant themes in the meaning of marriage and what is the reason for the decline among black Americans? 

Black Men Speak

In the JFI study, carried out on a group of 52 black men, it was found that there were four major ways in which marriage could enhance the meaning of participants’ life — secure emotional support, lifelong commitment, enhanced life success, and secure attachment. Secure emotional support refers to men’s valuation of the ability to bond with their lives spiritually and emotionally over the course of their marriage. As stated by researchers, black men’s “wives often provided the men a safe space in which to express their psychological and emotional concerns on a consistent basis.” Lifelong commitment refers to the investment made by members of a marriage in their relationship, as well as the value of shared memories and intimacy. Marriage was also considered to enhance life success by providing men with an organized, centering force. Finally, secure attachment refers to a couple’s ability to lean on each other in tough times. 

The Reasons for Declines in Marriages among Black Americans

There are various reasons for declining marriage rates – including the influence of subcultures whose values are opposed to marriage and social and economic impediments. Rises in unemployment and underemployment of black men, for instance, can make men (and women) less receptive to marriage. When black women were asked how important it was to have a husband or partner who provided a good income, two-thirds answered that this was “very important,” compared to 32 % of white women. Men who pursue further education, military service, or other professional training beyond high school can delay marriage, though they do not affect rates in the long.term. There is also an imbalance in the sex ratio, with around 81 black males per 100 females.

 Weddings Get the Thumbs Up

The financial concerns surrounding marriage are those covering long-term stability, not the costs of weddings per se. Today, one of the biggest trends sweeping the U.S. – in both white and minority communities – is that of micro-weddings and streamed or virtual weddings – which enable financially challenged couples to make big cost savings. Live-streamed weddings were a lifesaver for couples wishing to get married in 2020, but also a good way to save on the costs incurred by lavish celebrations. Today, virtual weddings have various protocols – which include sending out virtual invitations, sending guests gift boxes prior to the day, selecting and testing the appropriate streaming software to be used, and even asking virtual guests to dress up.  

The Stuff that Meaning is Made of in Marriage

The JFI study pointed out two factors that black American men felt lent greater meaning to their marriage: faith (the belief that God is guiding one’s marriage and life) and learning the dynamics of give and take. The latter involves striking the right balance between given and receiving. It refers to the importance of compromise, respect of boundaries, and a true desire to make a partner heard and loved – even in moments of conflict. 

Marriage rates are declining among African Americans. Just a few causes include men-to-women ratios and lack of economic stability. Research indicates, however, that marriage can actually help boost economic success, while also providing psychological support for spouses when they need it.

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