Univ. commits to marriage research

Men in the U.S. are waiting until age 27 to get married, and women are waiting until they’re 25. This is just one of the many issues the University’s new National Center for Marriage Research will be tackling over the next five years.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was so interested in the causes and consequences of this and other current marriage issues that it offered researchers across the nation a chance to earn a $4.35 million grant to create the nation’s one and only national marriage research center.

Univ. professor Wendy Manning and associate professor Susan Brown, co-directors of the new center, heard about the grant on July 3 of this year and turned in their 100-page proposal less than a month later.

The national center puts BGSU’s program at a high level of visibility, which can attract attention from scholars, researchers and students, said Gary Lee, chair of the sociology department.

Since the new research center will need $5.52 million in total funding, the University will make up the difference with donations from the sociology department, graduate college and the College of Arts and Sciences.

“This is a really terrific accomplishment for both Susan Brown and Wendy Manning, but also for the University and the region,” said Heinz Bulmahn, dean of the graduate college and vice provost for research.

Manning and Brown, both accomplished researchers in the sociology field, collaborated on the proposal, which aims to address six main questions that deal with marriage and family issues across generations in the U.S.

“The million-dollar question is whether marriage is the cause or consequence of well-being,” Brown said.

Well-being can be affected by economics, physical health and mental health, but they’re trying to see where heterosexual marriage fits in the equation.

Families are more complicated, Manning said.

The percentage of U.S. children born to unwed mothers is at 38 percent, compared to 5 percent in 1960, which shows the difference between the changing generations, Brown said.

We need to research these issues so we can inform people and change the next generation of marriage researchers, she said.

Divorce also plays a role in the changing family structure, since about half of all first marriages are expected to end in divorce, Manning said.

This could affect the well-being of a child because children typically are better off when they’re in better families, Manning said.

On top of these issues, the research center will be looking at the effects marriages and families have on adolescents’ views toward marriage, the issue of cohabitation before marriage, the formation of family outside of marriage compared to married families, and the effects of marriage education programs in maintaining a person’s well-being.

A number of University faculty and undergraduate and graduate students will be working on these topics, along with several national affiliates.

Since the research center funding didn’t begin until early October, some things are still up in the air, such as hiring more staff.

Bulmahn said faculty on release time will be working in the research center as one way the University can make up the money difference between the federal grant and the amount needed for research.

“Faculty on release” is staff, such as a graduate student, that is released from usual teaching loads to focus on research, he said.

Manning said they are also still looking for a centralized location for the research center on campus, since the faculty currently has no place to gather for conferences, workshops and pilot research projects. Until that time, they will be working with the center for family demographic research on campus in 109 Williams Hall, she said.

Both Brown and Manning will be traveling to Washington, D.C., next Friday to meet with national affiliates and said they expect the research center to actually get going next spring.