But will they listen?

Quentin writes:
Let’s suppose you have a young friend or relation who is clearly becoming more and more involved in a relationship which may well lead to marriage. Suppose you advise your friend that, if your instructions are followed, he or she will on average

Improve the stability of the marriage by 22%
Increase satisfaction in the marriage by 20%
Increase the sexual quality of the marriage by 15%
Improve communication in the marriage by 12%

and that there is good scientific evidence to support the value of your advice. Do you think he or she would take it?

But the advice is quite simple: delay sex until you are married.

Given that cohabitation is on the up, given that we are told that living together for a period allows one to test compatibility, it may seem hard to believe.
So you will find this study extremely interesting.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Bio-ethics, Moral judgment, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to But will they listen?

  1. James H says:

    So, once again, the facts back up the church’s long-standing teaching. I’m always pleasantly surprised, but less so the more it happens.

    But no, they won’t listen. They never do. You can’t even discuss this with most people. To their minds, if they can think of a single exception, it means the generalisation is false. I remember an exchange I had on a Telegraph comments section: I’d said that children have been shown to do better in families where there is a father. The reflexive objection came, ‘Tell that to all the children abused by their fathers!’ You tell them that gay couples are generally less faithful than heterosexual ones, they say ‘I know a gay couple that have been together for 5 years!’. You tell them about this study and, well, I’m sure someone will pop up in the comments…

    What have all these issues in common? They’re the stuff of the Pelvic Left (as American blogger Mark Shea calls them). To a massive whack of the population, Free Lurve is the one true god. We can’t argue against a religion- only preach and live a better alternative. And the most important part of that is raising enough children to believe it.

  2. Horace says:

    I nearly contributed to the previous post with a famous quote “Lies, damned lies and statistics” ( Benjamin Disraeli ?) but decided that my personal experience was unlikely to let me make a useful contribution.
    As far as I know I have had only one “adequate social relationship” – with my wife of 56 years!

    Now we have another statistical study!
    Again I am not really qualified to make an authoritative comment – but following a link on the right hand side column of the page indicated in the post I find:-

    “The question is whether it’s the type of relationship that causes lower quality or whether it’s the people,” he said. “The finding is that it’s something about the people.” (‘Hookups’ Can Turn Into Meaningful Relationships, Study Suggests )

    which seems to me interesting!

    Happy Christmas!

  3. John Candido says:

    I have some difficulty with this study in terms of its philosophical origin and the motivational basis of its authors for doing such a study in the first place. Brigham Young University philosophical basis can be described and located as fundamentalist Christian, and if there is any doubt about this you should read their Honour Code which is germane to both students and staff. If you go to their website http://www.byu.edu/webapp/home/index.jsp and click on ‘Future Students’ and ‘About BYU’ or simply go to http://saas.byu.edu/catalog/2009-2010ucat/GeneralInfo/HonorCode.php#HCOfficeInvovement , you will read that students & staff are banned from consuming alcohol, tobacco, tea and coffee. With the exception of tobacco, which should be up to the individual and subject to normal smoking restrictions in public areas; the other prohibitions are very strange indeed!
    I feel that not engaging in sex before marriage can be a good and principled thing that can be forestalled, providing that both people can agree to it. The beauty of sexuality is dependent on its purpose, context, intention, and setting. In other words it should originate from the deepest meaning of love and be a conduit to and build more of that same love. Jesus was not a trained Sexologist and he didn’t say a great deal about sex, if you take the gospels as a guide. Despite this, he did say some things. As the church is undergoing its own trial via sex abuse scandals, together with its antiquated mode of governance and its clericalism, its attitude to modern science which it perceives is in conflict with its own doctrine; it is not in any position of integrity to dole out advice to the modern world. The problem of sexuality in the modern world for its many varied individuals can be partly or fully resolved using common sense, the advice of trusted others, and their individual consciences. It’s not perfect but there it is.
    Part of my problems with this peer reviewed study, which is published within the American Journal of Family Psychology, is that it could be an example of doctrine chasing science. Does this study definitively demonstrate that there is a benefit to forestalling sex until couples are married? Who is to know? Only time can tell. The study needs to be approached with a scientist’s conservatism and scepticism.
    Further reviews by other qualified scientists need to be made and other attempts made to replicate the results would be in order. As a non-scientist I would like to know if this study follows any other study with a similar subject matter. In other words does this study replicate and support some of the findings of past studies with similar subject matter?

  4. John Candido says:

    My apologies as I have left this paragraph out of my reply. It should be attached to the end of my original reply. If I may continue? Other questions that are germane to this study are can sex before marriage be a causal factor of a poor future relationship? How does waiting help the relationship form better communication processes? How does waiting help improve long-term stability and relationship satisfaction? How significant are individual differences to future relationship satisfactions regardless of the state of premarital sex in their relationship? Can’t couples learn to communicate better and resolve their differences despite having premarital sex? And does this partly or wholly circumvent rather than negate the findings of this study?

  5. huchet says:

    Quentin says: John Candido, I am sure you are right to maintain an element of scepticism. There are a number of pertinent questions to which we do not yet have an answer. And this is true of many studies particularly in the “soft” science of human relations.

    However, as my account implies, we are dealing with a world which seems to take for granted that sexual relations before marriage are a healthy test of whether the couple are suited. This study throws significant doubt on that, and puts us into a position where we can ask for counter evidence.

    If fact I can understand very easily how the binding effect of sexual relations can distract the couple from understanding each other, or realise that they are not suited, at more everyday levels.

  6. John Candido says:

    You make a valid point about the contemporaneous but false secular viewpoint that sexual relations before marriage is a healthy test of married suitability. This is an erroneous and exagerated idea. Sexual compatibility, whatever that means, cannot be some sort of a litmus test of the compatibility of two individuals for marriage. Sexuality is just one part of the complexity of a marriage relationship. Despite my skepticism of the study, the study could turn out to be a valuable first step in the demolition of the above secular viewpoint. Thank you for your reply.

  7. st.joseph says:

    I did read somewhere that ‘marriage is a Sacrament’Chastity and Virginity isn’t !
    That to me says everything as to how we ought to be living our lives.
    We receive that instruction from our beliefs.
    What does that have to do with paedophile priests !!!

  8. claret says:

    John Candido appears to have made a link between this study and Catholic Church teaching to the effect that the former derives itself from the latter. Certainly the Church would not claim to base its teaching on sexuality on the basis of any academic type of study of the subject but on what it perceives to be the mind of God, for the good of humanity, as given by scripture and tradition.
    He also falls into the same trap of relying too much on what Jesus did not say rather than what he did say so as to justify sinful sexuality. Jesus made it very clear about how marriage should be.
    That is what the Church teaches and has every right and indeed obligation to do so. The fact that the sex abuse scandals that so dishonour the Church eat away at the Church’s authority is a grievious scandal in itself and of course serves to undermine what it proclaims but it does not detract from what it defines as the mind of God.

  9. John Candido says:

    ‘Claret’, you say in your reply that, and I quote, ‘John Candido appears to have made a link between this study and Catholic Church teaching to the effect that the former derives itself from the latter.’ You seem to be implying that scientific endeavors cannot be tarnished or infected by the personal values of those doing the science. If that is what you are implying you are wrong. History is littered with examples of so called ‘science’ that has been debased by a scientist’s set of values.
    Just look at the state of medicine under the Nazis, or the state of German academia and other levels of state education as it was infected by their anti-Semitism. Apart from the Nazis, there has been an assortment of psychologists that straddled the 19th & 20th centuries that have sought to link race and intelligence. There is an excellent book which I have got to get around reading one day called ‘Merchants of Doubt’, written by two historians of science called Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway. This was published in the United States in 2010 by Bloomsbury Press. This title tells the story of a small number of highly qualified American scientists who were connected to the conservative side of politics and who chronically abused their position of public trust by disseminating misinformation or doubt about the dangers of tobacco smoke, DDT, acid rain, and global warming.
    Like a former discussion that I had within Secondsight about the difficulty of whether we can accurately tell if we have God’s blessing on a particular project we want to achieve, or of an individual in history stating that success or failure directly or indirectly says that God is for us or against us, Claret underestimates the difficulty of ascertaining the mind of God. As nature abhors a vacuum and time stands still for no one, history is replete with changes in catholic doctrine examples of which are usury, slavery, marriage, catholic social doctrine, and the laws of war. Our understanding of the human person and the world in general, as it constantly changes through modern advances in science, will impact of catholic doctrines eventually. The trouble is that the Vatican tends to drag its feet when it comes to updating itself and people everywhere tend to see it as an institution that is unmovable.

  10. John Candido says:

    If any body has the time and interest I have a Utube link which has a talk given by Naomi Oreskes at the University of Rhode Island in the United States on the subject of her and Erik M. Conway’s book called ‘Merchants of Doubt’. Be warned that it goes for 1 hour and 14 minutes approximately. Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXyTpY0NCp0 . I hope that you all find this an interesting talk!

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