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U.S. News Archive
February 07 - February 13, 2002



This page contains news for the period February 07, 2002 through February 13, 2002.  

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Wednesday, February 13, 2002

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Dating tips for single parents


A story released today by PRNewswire reports that for single parents dating is an entirely different and more challenging situation than their experiences prior to having children. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) wants single parents to know that support is available. Their website, www.okparent.org offers multiple resources for a variety of parenting issues, including sound dating advice for single parents.

Another resource for newly single parents is Calm Waters Center for Children and Families. According to Calm Waters' executive director Judy Mee, LPC, death and divorce can bring on turbulent and frightening times for young children and teenagers. She cautions parents to proceed with caution when they begin dating again. Mee recommends the following:

-- Don't rush into a new relationship. Take a year off and focus on yourself and your children. Take time to heal and rebuild your lives.

-- Re-establish routine and structure. When consistency and structure are re-established, children are less likely to feel insecure when someone new enters the mix.

-- Don't forget where your priorities lie. Taking care of the children's emotional and physical needs should come first.

-- Be slow to introduce new people to your children. Not every relationship has staying power. Therefore, wait for signs of permanency before introducing new people into   the family. A parade of different people can leave children insecure and confused.

-- Take one step at a time. After introducing someone new to your children, ease them into your children's lives; don't immediately include them in all family activities. "You especially don't want someone new suddenly disciplining your children," Mee says.

Mee also recommends the following do’s and don't’s when determining whom to date and ultimately introduce to your children.

Do look for someone who ...

-- Can be fun and playful with your children.

-- Is responsible, trustworthy and treats you and your children with respect.

-- Is flexible with their schedule and can adapt if plans must change unexpectedly.

-- Is not threatened by your relationship with your children and expects you to put their needs first with the understanding that they can some times be jealous.

Don’t knowingly become involved with someone who ...

-- Has a tendency to scold or lecture you or the children.

-- Finds it difficult to be supportive or nurturing of others.

-- Is jealous of any time spent with the children.

-- Is incapable of apologizing or asking for forgiveness.

Calm Waters provides support groups for children five and up who are members of families that have experienced divorce or death. Their support groups are offered free of charge, but a parent must accompany every child. The center also gives seminars for a $25 attendance fee.

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

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Saying "I do" or just saying "I don’t"

A story published today by the Christian Science Monitor reports that in the demographics of love, it seems that more and more people are holding off on marriage.

In the 2000 Census, the median age at first marriage in the United States was 25.1 for women and 26.8 for men. For women, that marks a jump of 4.3 years since 1970; for men, it's a dip of about four months since 1996 - but still 3.6 years later than in 1970.

Thirty-five percent of adults ages 25 to 34 had never been married in 2000: That's 13.3 million people. But by age 44, there was a lot of pairing up, as the ranks of the never-married dipped by half, leaving only 15 percent of people who'd never said "I do."

But from 1970 to 2000, the proportion of never-married women ages 30 to 34 more than tripled, from 6 percent to 22 percent. Men saw a similar shift, with 30 percent never married as of 2000, compared to just 9 percent 32 years ago.


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Single life does not mean locking yourself at home


A story published today by the Bowling Green Daily News reports that as Valentine’s day draws closer, single people are sometimes given a hard time. You hear other people gush about romantic dates. While some people wonder why you’re unattached.

"I don’t know why, but society has a stigma attached to being single," said Laura Harris, the unmarried 30-year-old singles coordinator at Living Hope Baptist Church in Kentucky.

That’s just one reason why Living Hope is working to help singles through a variety of programs.

Harris has discovered that the singles activities –– including spontaneous nights out, birthday parties and an occasional program called Friday Night Live –– provide more than companionship.

"It’s a good way of helping others and being with others and also getting your own needs met," she said. "It’s a growing process."

Harris said all ages attend Living Hope’s singles groups.

There are college students, divorcees, those who have never married and those who’ve lost a spouse to death.

The members of another singles group called Singles Friendship Group meets each Friday night at a Barnes & Noble Bookstore. The group mainly consists of singles who are in their mid-30s or older. The oldest member is about 72, according to Pat Henderson, the group’s leader.

Henderson said the group’s members have become good friends.

While they meet each Friday at 7 p.m. to listen to speakers, play cards and board games and have group discussions, they also have other events.

Each Tuesday night, members have dinner together at local restaurants. They often gather for movies, dancing, golf, bowling, shopping, picnics, day trips and road trips to places like Branson, Mo. Sometimes they have picnics, soup suppers and ice cream socials.

It’s for "adult, single friends of all ages and walks of life with whom we can meet in a non-threatening environment," 59-year-old Henderson said.

But sometimes those in the group become more than friends.

Henderson said several people have fallen in love after meeting in the group.

The Singles Friendship Group holds its regular meeting each Friday at 7 p.m. in the Community Room at Barnes & Noble. There is no fee to join, but the group takes up a collection each week to help pay for paper goods and other items that they use during potlucks.

Living Hope’s Bible studies and fellowship groups for singles also are free. For more information about the times and dates of activities, many of which are held in the homes of singles who attend Living Hope, call (270) 746-5982.


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New report shows women are having more children

A story released today by the U.S. Newswire reports that according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) birth statistics, women in the United States are having more children than at any time in almost 30 years. At the same time, HHS secretary Tommy Thompson said that births to teens continue to decline.

In 2000, the average number of children born to women over a lifetime was 2.1, according to a new CDC report, "Births: Final Data for 2000." During most of the 1970s and 1980s women gave birth to fewer than two children on average, a rate insufficient to replace the population (2.1 is considered the population's replacement level).

"The continued decline in the teen birth rate is very encouraging," said Secretary Thompson. "Reducing teen pregnancy is an important health goal for our nation."

The birth rate for teens 15-17 was down 5 percent, while the rate for 18-19 year olds declined 1 percent for 2000. Overall teen birth rates declined for white, black, Hispanic, and Asian and Pacific Islander teens and were stable for American Indians.

The new report features a number of other significant findings:

-- There were 4,058,814 births in the United States in 2000, a 3 percent increase from 1999, and the third straight increase following nearly a decade of decline from 1990 thru 1997.

-- The average number of children born to women over a lifetime was fairly consistent along racial lines. White, Asian/Pacific Islander and American Indian women all had total fertility rates of 2.1, and black women had a total fertility rate of 2.2.

-- For the first year in nearly a decade, the pre-term birth rate declined, from 11.8 percent to 11.6 percent of all births. The pre-term rate has risen fairly steadily over the past two decades. However, the low birthweight rate (7.6 percent) did not improve in 2000.

-- More than one-third (33.2 percent) of all births were to unmarried women, up from 33 percent in 1999. Birth rates increased for unmarried women in all age groups except teenagers, whose rates continued to decline.


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Colorado divorce record bill gets Senate approval

A story published today by the Rocky Mountain News reports that a plan that would allow Colorado's courts to seal most divorce proceedings won initial Senate approval Monday.

Sen. Ken Gordon, D-Denver, argued that SB 49 merely would allow divorced couples to maintain the same rights as those who remain married -- to keep records ranging from financial holdings to psychological reports private.

Gordon said he introduced the bill at the request of Arapahoe County officials who believe that the information gleaned from divorce records could be used to steal a person's identity.

The divorce files include Social Security numbers, investment holdings, credit card numbers, pension information, children's names and birth dates, as well as psychological and medical records.

There's a privacy issue on one hand and an open records issue on the other, Gordon said.

"In this case, I'm asking you all to think -- does this fall into the realm of privacy or does it fall into public domain," he said.

Sen. Jim Dyer, R-Littleton, supported the bill, saying there was no reason for private affairs being open records. Under the bill, the names of a couple granted a divorce still would be public record.

"There is an enormous amount of information which is private," Dyer said. "Now, suddenly because you get a divorce, this information is public record. There is no compelling reason for it." Sen. Norma Anderson, R-Lakewood, opposed the bill as unnecessary, noting that judges already have the discretion to seal records in divorce cases. She said those who put their Social Security numbers on drivers' licenses could have their financial records tracked by private investigators.

Monday, February 11, 2002

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Married people by the numbers

A story published today by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports on how the percentage of Americans who report they are married. The figures are broken down by several demographic groups. The percentages are based on interviews with 18,826 adult Americans interviewed in 19 national surveys from 1992 through December 2001 by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University.

The percentages reflects on people who answered "yes" to the question: "Are you currently married?"

Entire nation ................ 58%

Men ......................... 59%   Women ....................... 56 %

Age range

18-24 ........................ 17 %      25-34 ........................ 57 %

35-44 ........................ 71 %      45-54 ........................ 69 %

55-64 ........................ 72 %      65 or older ................ 55 %

Income Bracket

Below $25,000 ................. 33 %    25,000 to $40,000 ............ 59 %

40,000 to $60,000 ............ 72 %    Above $60,000 ................. 81 %


White ........................ 62 %       African-American ............. 41 %

Hispanic ................... 52 %       Asian-American ............... 47 %

Other........................ 48 %

Household make up

Has children ................. 72 %      Never had children ........... 24 %

Geographic location

Lives in major city .......... 50 %     Smaller city .................. 59 %

Suburb ........................... 60 %    Rural area .................... 66 %

Political View

Very Conservative ............ 63 %      Somewhat Conservative ........ 63%

Middle of the Road ........... 59 %      Somewhat Liberal ................... 51 %

Very Liberal ..................... 45 %

Ed. Note: This is an average taken from surveys over a 10 year period. They do not accurately reflect the current situation since the percentages of married people have declined significantly during this 10 year period.

Sunday, February 10, 2002

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The realities of marriage and divorce

A story published today by the Chicago Sun Times reports that according to a recently released figures by the U.S. Census , nearly all American adults will get married at least once in their lifetime. And about half of them also will be divorced at least once.

Marriage endures, but in what condition?

That is the question scholars at the University of Chicago set out to answer 10 years ago when they launched the Lilly Project on Religion, Culture and Family.

The answer is complex and the search to find it has produced a dozen scholarly books and a host of even more provocative questions.

"Marriage has been a public institution, so maybe we should think twice before we let go of it," said Don Browning, Alexander Campbell Professor of Ethics and Social Sciences at the University of Chicago Divinity School and director of the Lilly Project. "It's starting to happen."

A decade of research found that:

- 70 percent of all American weddings take place in a religious setting, yet the overall divorce rate is nearly 50 percent.

-A third of all births today are to single mothers. In the African-American community the rate is nearly two-thirds. In 1965, only 5 percent of children were born to unmarried mothers.

-The United States has the highest number of single-parent families in the developed world. But as recently as the late 1970s, 75 percent of all American children were being raised in traditional, two-parent families.

-Half of all children who do not live with their father have never set foot in their father's home.

-The average age of those getting married for the first time has increased nearly five years in a generation. In 1960, the average age for a man was 20 and 18 for a woman. Now the average age for a woman is 25.

-More than half of all first marriages today are preceded by a period of cohabitation.

-One-third of children born to married parents and two-thirds of children born to cohabiting couples will see their parents split before they turn 16.

"What we've seen is a massive change in one generation, a change so great that the majority of parents of young children today were raised in a different type of family than they live in today," Tom Smith, director of the General Social Survey of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, says in the report, titled Marriage: Just a Piece of Paper?


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Colorado’s divorce rate remains steady

A story published today by the Oklahoman reports that three years after Colorado Gov. Frank Keating declared war on the state's No. 2-in-the-nation divorce rate, the enemy shows little sign of retreating.

Oklahoma's number of failed marriages -- about 20,000 a year -- has remained fairly steady, state records show.

For every 100 marriage licenses issued in 2001, the state granted 76 divorce petitions.

Nevertheless, Keating and advocates of the $10 million Oklahoma Marriage Initiative point to progress that they hope will help reduce the state's divorce rate by one-third by 2010.

"Divorce is so imbedded in the culture, it's going to be years before we turn it around," Keating said.

To help with the governor’s cause, about 750 clergy members statewide have signed the Oklahoma Marriage Covenant, agreeing to require a four- to six- month preparation period before presiding over any couple's wedding.

The covenant is important because an estimated 75 percent of first marriages occur in churches, synagogues or mosques, religious leaders say.

Too often, Oklahoma churches have served not as promoters of lifelong marriages but as "wedding factories," said the Rev. Kent Choate, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma's family ministry specialist.

About 200 people from state government, the religious community, private counseling agencies and other sectors have trained to teach the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program, or PREP. An additional 100 to 300 people are expected to be trained by year's end.

In recent years, various studies have ranked Oklahoma's divorce rate among the highest nationally. A 1998 Family Research Council report said only Arkansas had a higher divorce rate, if you discount Nevada, where couples from across the nation flock for "quickie" divorces.

The Oklahoma Marriage Initiative has put the state at the forefront of a developing national debate over government-sponsored marriage programs.

Now, it appears that President Bush would like other states to follow Oklahoma's lead.

"I think it's quite exciting," administration official Wade Horn said of the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative. "I think Governor Keating has shown real leadership and creativity on this issue, and we're looking forward to seeing the results."

After Keating launched the marriage initiative, the state began calculating the incomes of both individuals in a cohabiting couple when determining welfare eligibility. That removed a financial incentive for couples to live together outside marriage.

Also, the Legislature passed a bill lowering the price of marriage licenses for couples submitting to premarital counseling.

But so far, lawmakers have rejected Keating's calls to enact a covenant marriage law and outlaw no-fault divorce.

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Women should look out for their financial future

An article written by Lauren Rudd for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette encourages women to take control of their finances. The complete article can be viewed by clicking on the link below:


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Divorce and stress hazardous to men’s health


A story released today by Reuters reports that a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the State University of New York-Oswego has found that chronic work stress and divorce can be a deadly combination for men.

Researchers studied data from 12,366 patients who participated in the seven-year Multiple Risk Factor. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and will be published in Feb. 11.

Of 10,904 men who were married at the beginning of the trial, the researchers concluded that those who stayed married were less likely to die from a number of causes than those who divorced.

Of those who divorced during the trial, 1,332 died from various causes, including some 663 from cardiovascular causes.

Those most adversely affected in the trial were patients experiencing both work stress and divorce, the study found.

The researchers suggested "remaining married in midlife has protective effects in the face of adverse experiences at work." They recommended counseling to help overcome work and marital stress.

Saturday, February 9, 2002

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Expectations in married life linked to more divorces


A story published today by the Detroit Free Press reports that according to data released Friday by the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans are marrying later and divorcing more often. About half of today's first-time marriages end in splits-ville.

That's a reflection of changing attitudes, said David Popenoe, a sociology professor and codirector of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

For the World War II generation, marriage was a partnership for battling life. Now, Popenoe said, marriage is almost completely tied to feelings.

"But the problem with feelings is they are notoriously changeable," he said.

Expectations also change. Women still desire to marry someone who earns a decent income, he said. But now, so do men.

"Many men want a wife who will earn money . . . but they also want this woman to do the laundry and cooking. The whole area of marriage gender roles is still in a state of flux and up for negotiation," he said.

The release of the report is timely. Marriage initiatives are cropping up in state legislatures -- including Michigan's, where a lawmaker wants to establish a Marriage and Fatherhood Commission -- and in Washington, D.C., where marriage is expected to figure into the debate as the nation's welfare law comes up for reauthorization this year.

The report shows that among men born between 1925 and 1934, 15 percent were divorced by age 40. But among men born between 1945 and 1954, 31 percent were divorced by that age.

"Young people I talk to say they wouldn't even imagine getting married without cohabitating first, so things have really changed," said Pamela Smock, associate professor of sociology at the University of Michigan.

Henry Baskin, a Birmingham lawyer who has specialized in divorce cases for 30 years, said he has even heard of parents who encourage their children to live together before tying the knot. Many end up divorced anyway, he said.

Robert Erard, a psychologist at the Psychological Institutes of Michigan in Franklin, said money, in-laws and sex are prime culprits in arguments that lead to breakups.

But it's the little things that warn of trouble ahead, he said.

When couples no longer spend time talking to each other, going out alone together, surprising each other with little things, or being physically intimate, problems can quickly arise, he said.

When couples see warning signs like going weeks or months without physical intimacy, not making up after fights or making up without addressing the cause of the fight, or speaking about the partner in a disparaging way, they should get counseling, Erard said.

Eric Nordquist, a counselor at Perspectives of Troy, said he believes today's instant-gratification society makes people think their marital problems can be solved in a flash.

"The good news is, people who do seek counseling are oftentimes able to reconcile . . . it does work," Nordquist said. "But the sooner people seek help, the more effective counseling is."


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Ohio says homeless shelter’s eviction of singles breaks agreement


A story published today by the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the Haven House homeless shelter in Ohio, told all unmarried, childless adults to leave three days after Christmas.

The Haven House says its decision was a compassionate effort to better serve homeless families, and that the singles could always avail services of other shelters in the community. But The Cincinnati Enquirer learned that the state has informed the Haven House that evicting singles violated a 2001-2002 grant agreement, in which the Haven House said it planned to serve 800 single men, 330 single women and 150 families in a 12-month period.

In a letter last week, the department's Office of Housing and Community Partnerships informed the shelter that it had frozen half of a $71,500 grant to Haven House because of the evictions and financial accountability concerns. The letter also warned that the Haven House may have to repay up to half of the grant money it already received unless it can justify how the money was spent.

The Haven House responded that it wouldn't accept the remaining money anyway because it did not want to follow state-required, nondiscriminatory housing practices — such as taking in singles and gay partners.

But the Rev. Bobby Grove Sr. a former tent evangelist who has run Haven House with his wife, Fayette, for 20 years , said:"We would never have turned anyone away until we found out they had a place to go."

He said Haven House wants to focus on housing families rather than keeping husbands separated from wives while in the shelter, which was segregated by gender.

He also said he was confident that the newly formed Church Hospitality Network could take in the singles. He said the singles from his shelter "were referred to" the church network, not summarily kicked out.

Scott Gary, supportive housing manager for the state Office of Housing and Community Partnerships, said Haven House was one of 86 shelters receiving grant money through his office.

About 5 percent of the time, the grants are put on hold because of alleged violations of grant agreements, as in Haven House's case. Most grant recipients opt to correct the problems so the grant will be restored.

But last month, six days after officials visited the shelter, Haven House replied: "We will not be requesting or accepting (any more) funds from the State of Ohio. ... We cannot accept two gay men or two gay women or a woman and her "live-in' boyfriend as a "family' and allow them to share the same bedroom as we would a man and his wife who are legally married."

Rev. Grove says his shelter has housed lesbians and gays in the past, but didn't allow intimate partners to stay there together.

Haven House has a month to prove it properly spent $35,750 of the grant money and account for the numbers of people served and those turned away. If the explanation is not adequate, Haven House could be ordered to repay some or all of that money.

The Rev. Grove says he thinks Haven House has handled all the money properly.

Scott Gary said it's not unusual for nonprofit organizations to change their focus, but the no-singles policy violated the grant agreement.

"We cannot dictate to nonprofits that they have to run their program a certain way," Gary said, "but we can say that if you want to do that, you're not allowed to use our money."

Friday, February 8, 2002

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Nonfamily households taking over Philly’s suburbs

A story published today by the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the 2000 census is painting a different picture of suburban life, one that just as often could include a widowed grandmother in a four-bedroom suburban home or a young single person spurning active city life for the security and jobs of the suburbs.

A Brookings Institution analysis of the census numbers found that in 2000, 29 percent of the U.S. suburbs were nonfamily households - mostly elderly people living alone and young singles - while 27 percent were married couples with children.

The remaining households included single-parent families and married couples without children.

In the suburbs of the nine-county Philadelphia region, the gap is slightly wider, with 29 percent nonfamily and 26 percent married couples with children.

Nonfamily households outnumber married couples with children in four of the region's suburban counties - Camden, Burlington, Montgomery and Delaware - mirroring what has been happening for some time in Philadelphia.

"We're moving to suburbs that look like all of America," said demographer William H. Frey, one of the study's authors. Much of the growth of the suburbs, he said, is no longer due to traditional families but to single parents and nonfamilies.

"Part of the reason suburbs were formed was because people wanted to live with people like themselves," Frey said. "Now, more regional planning will be much more important to satisfy these different groups in the suburbs."

A big part of the decreasing household size is what demographers call "aging in place."

"You've got older people who are members of a generation that moved to the suburbs in the '40s and '50s and never lived in the cities, or did at a much younger age," said Alan Berube, a senior research analyst at Brookings and the survey's co-author. "Now . . . they're not moving to cities. They're not moving south. They're staying where they are."

While senior-citizen services such as medical day-care centers multiply, younger singles find townhouses springing up near their suburban office-park jobs.

To further reverse traditional notions, the survey also found that cities of high immigration and overall ethnic diversity - such as New York and Los Angeles - are becoming more "traditionally suburban," registering strong growth in married couples with children.

Where is the married, two-parent, suburban family still predominant, nationwide and in this area?

In the growing suburbs - Gloucester, Bucks and Chester Counties, where expansion is possible - married couples with children still outnumber nonfamilies.

"There's still this incredible urge," Frey said, "of families with children to want to live in as much space as possible."

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Census releases new data on marriage and divorce in America

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that according to a Census Bureau report, nine of 10 Americans are expected to say ''I do'' at least once in their lives.But the report adds that about half of first marriages may end in divorce. The same report also revealed that the more educated you are, the more likely you are to marry.   And among younger men, having an older wife is becoming more common.

The report, from a 1996 survey, provides ''comprehensive, historically rich data'' on marriage and divorce, said sociologist Pamela Smock of the University of Michigan. In the main, she said, ''it confirms things that many American people are aware of.''

Among the long-held trends reinforced in the census report:

While divorce has become more common, so has the tendency for divorced people to remarry. First marriages that end in divorce typically last about 8 years.

About 50 percent of first marriages for men under age 45 end in divorce, compared with roughly 47 percent for women in the same age group.

Younger Americans are delaying marriage until later in life.

''People no longer feel they have to rush down the aisle,'' said Marshall Miller, cofounder of the Alternatives to Marriage Project, a group based in Boston that advocates equal treatment of unmarried and married Americans. ''The earlier people are married, the more likely they are to get divorced.''

That partly explains why people with more education tend to stay married, Miller said. His rationale is that more-educated people are more mature when they marry and presumably have spent more time courting their future spouse.

For example, among never-married women ages 25 to 44 with a college degree, 15 out of 1,000 divorced within a year, compared with 30 out of 1,000 women with just a high school diploma.

While still high, it's a change from the 1950s, when everyone was expected to get married, said Thomas Coleman, executive director of the Los Angeles-based American Association of Single People.

A study released earlier this week by the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington, also noted that suburban neighborhoods are no longer dominated by ''married-with-children'' families.

Twenty-nine percent of suburban households were ''nonfamily'' - singles or elderly people living alone, for instance - while 27 percent were made up of married couples with children.

''Elected officials and corporate CEOs need to pay more attention to the wants and needs of unmarried Americans, especially since this constituency keeps growing,'' Coleman added.

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America big on marriages but big on divorces too

A story published today by the Christian Science Monitor reports that Americans revere wedlock. Nearly 9 out of 10 of them will tie the knot sometime in their lives, more than the citizens of most other countries. But, there’s only one problem. Americans seem more enamored with the institution than with each other.

Although marriage looks likely to remain a predominant fixture, the lack of a practical or religious underpinning to many relationships threatens to undermine the wedding vows of today's young couples.

If today's Gen-Xers go through the same experience as their predecessors, then divorce rates won't drop and could even rise a little to a record 50 percent, according to a report released today by the US Census Bureau. Such an outcome would prove especially bitter for Gen-Xers, experts say, because they hold marriage in high regard.

In the view of some experts, America's newest newlyweds, for all their idealism about finding a soul-mate, often fall short on the glue that makes matchups last.

"There's a certain hollowness," says David Popenoe, a sociologist at Rutgers University and a founder of the National Marriage Project, a think tank looking into marriage trends. Young people "want marriage very much, but they're not willing to do what it requires to have a long-term marriage."

Whether Gen-Xers will do any better than their parents remains to be seen. In 1996 (the latest Census data available), two-thirds of 25- to 29-year-old women had gotten married but only 12 percent had been through a divorce. Using a mathematical model and assuming today's newly-married couples go through the same transitions as their predecessors, the Census projects half of their marriages could fall apart.

According to today's Census report, grandparents did a better job than parents at long-term commitment. For example, 92 percent of the men born between 1925 and 1934 had married and only 15 percent divorced by the time they reached 40. Early male Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1954) nearly equaled the marriage rate (88 percent) but had double the divorce rate by the time they reached 40.

"We're very, very good at rushing into things," says Marian Salzman, worldwide director of strategy and planning for Euro RSCG Worldwide, an advertising agency network based in New York. "We're also very good at rushing out of them."

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Indiana welfare officials skeptic on Bush’s marriage-aid plan

A story published today by the Indianapolis Star reports that when the Bush administration proposed to Congress for a $100 million experimental programs aimed at strengthening and encouraging marriage among the poor, Indiana state welfare officials approached the proposal with caution.

Meddling with people's love lives isn't a high priority during an economic downturn, said Cindy Collier, policy and planning director for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.

"We don't really have the staff right now to take on new projects not directly connected to services, so I can't say that would be the first thing on our plate," she said.

 The number of Indiana residents getting welfare checks went up 23 percent in the second half of last year.

President Bush this week proposed a $2.13 trillion budget for fiscal year 2003, which starts in October. The proposal includes $100 million that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would use to fund local marriage programs targeting welfare recipients.

Local governments would design their own programs and apply to the federal government for funding.

The demonstration project grants would not be tied to benefits in any way, stressed Wade F. Horn, the Health and Human Services Department's assistant secretary for children and families.

If Congress approves the marriage plan, the Health and Human Services Department would solicit program proposals next year.

Gov. Frank O'Bannon's office isn't sure yet whether the state should submit a proposal, said Andrew Stoner, executive assistant for human services.

"Some marriages aren't as beneficial as others," he said. "That's where it gets tricky. Government is not necessarily the best arbiter of which marriages are worth saving."

That said, families are generally better off when they're together, so Stoner said he would support the broad outlines of the plan, provided benefits aren't used to bribe or coerce anyone into marriage.

So far, the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration has chosen to use the flexibility that welfare reform gave states mostly for traditional anti-poverty efforts such as job training and child care.

However, the state does dabble a bit with family stability through training for noncustodial fathers.

"We want fathers to be involved with their children whether they're married or not," said Michelle Swain, a spokeswoman for the Family and Social Services Administration.

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Men sporting engagement rings?

A story published today by the USA Today reports that when it comes to getting down on bended knee, men traditionally have been the bearer of engagement rings.

But in a twist on engagement etiquette, women also are presenting their husbands-to-be with rings months before tying the knot.

Engagement rings are increasingly encircling men's fingers. Simple or intricate, yellow or white, diamond-embedded or birthstone-encrusted, the bands are yet another example of how modern couples are calling the shots as they plan their nuptials.

An engagement-ring swap carries "a lovely sentiment of giving and promise," says Bride's editor in chief Millie Martini Bratten.

In fact, men's engagement rings are standard in other countries — from socially liberal Sweden, where sexual equality is paramount, to mostly Muslim Syria, where it's shameful for a betrothed man to go without for fear he might stray from his beloved.

Jenny Libien's then-boyfriend popped the question a few years ago on Valentine's Day, when nearly 10% of all proposals occur, according to a recent Bride's survey. Right away, she wanted to reciprocate. "I'm a feminist and, well, we were getting engaged," says Libien, 32, a pathology resident from Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. "It wasn't just me."

So while vacationing in San Francisco a month later, she spied the perfect token of her affection at a sidewalk vendor's booth — a sterling silver band for 10 bucks. "I called it his training ring," Libien says. Her fiancée, computer scientist Richard Goodwin, 39, needed a little encouragement before sliding it on his wedding-ring finger. The band promptly confused his friends and family, who were sure the two had eloped.

A year later, the night before the ceremony, Goodwin pulled off his practice ring. The process made graduating from silver to platinum "so easy," Libien says.

Other men slip their engagement rings on their left hand and double them up with a wedding band after saying "I do." Still others adorn their right third finger with the bands, some symbolically switching them to their left hand during the ceremony.

And what if the couple calls off the engagement? The etiquette is the same as with her ring. "It depends on who does the breaking up," Bratten says. If he does the deed, he gives his ring back. But if she gets cold feet, he gets to keep the ring, as a kind of consolation prize.

Thursday, February 7, 2002

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Virginia House pushes through with bill to outlaw wife rape


A story published today by the Washington Post reports that Virginia’s House of Delegates gave preliminary approval today to a bill that would allow Virginia to prosecute someone for raping a spouse.

Also today, delegates voted in favor of allowing public schools to prominently post the Ten Commandments and excerpts from secular historical documents, a step that critics say would violate the Constitution.

Final House votes on both measures are set for Friday. They also would have to win passage in the Senate before the legislative session ends March 9. Expanding laws against domestic violence has broad support in the Senate, lawmakers said, but the chamber has been less receptive to bills such as the Ten Commandments measure that have been criticized for blurring the separation of church and state in public schools.

Also Friday, the House is to take up other measures favored by social conservatives who hope to capitalize on the historic, 64-seat majority held by Republicans in the 100-member chamber. Lawmakers will debate bills to require teenagers seeking abortions to obtain the consent of parents, and measures to ban certain late-term abortions.

Proponents of changing Virginia's rape laws said the state has a double standard for married and single women who are raped: A married woman can have her husband charged with the crime only if the couple is not living together or if she was physically harmed.

"The question is, should a married woman be afforded the same protections under our laws in regards to rape as an unmarried woman?" asked the bill's sponsor, Del. Terrie Lynne Suit (R-Virginia Beach).

But some Republicans and Democrats predicted that the proposed change would enable women fighting divorce or child-custody cases to falsely claim they were raped by a husband to gain leverage in the dispute.

"People who would otherwise be the salt of the earth are completely nuts" in divorce cases, said Del. Kenneth R. Melvin (D-Portsmouth), a criminal defense lawyer who offered an amendment on the House floor to strike the proposed change in rape laws.

"Someone can say, 'I was raped three years ago,' and it has to be investigated," Melvin said. "I am concerned about this poor soul who is unjustly accused, who has to go out and find a lawyer."

Melvin's amendment was defeated on a voice vote, and lawmakers approved the domestic violence package, also by voice -- but not before an angry Suit stood to denounce opponents of her bill.

"A woman can be videotaped being held at gunpoint and forced to have sex with her husband, and still she could not bring charges," Suit said. "Under common law, we were property. Then, 22 years ago, we were raised a little further from that. It is time to give married women their independence under the law in Virginia."

Virginia is one of 32 states, including Maryland, that exempt spouses accused of rape from prosecution under certain circumstances. Virginia's law allowing spouses to file rape charges in cases of physical harm or separation took effect in 1980.

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Ethicists tackle issue of sex


A story released today by the Religion New Service reports that sex can be fine with oneself and, in some circumstances, it can be terrific outside marriage.

Those were some of the sex-positive messages speakers were delivering at the annual gathering of the Society of Christian Ethics, which brought together more than 350 religious ethicists from across Canada and the United States.

Many at the conference were determined to move away from traditional beliefs that Judeo-Christianity preaches, such as sex is shameful, sex should be restricted to procreation, masturbation is wrong, sex outside marriage is always bad and homosexuality is evil.

A chapter of one major academic resource book discussed at the conference, "Sexuality and the Sacred," edited by James Nelson, is The Moral Significance of Female Orgasm: Toward Sexual Ethics That Celebrate Women's Sexuality. Its author, Professor Cristina Traina, a practicing Roman Catholic who teaches about ethics and sexuality at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., said female religious scholars have been among the leaders in the movement toward promoting the sacredness of human sexuality.

"The physical world, including the body, is one through which we experience the love of God," Traina said during the Jan. 11-13 conference, which debated scores of other controversial issues, from the morality of war to the ethics of globalization and cloning.

Traina compared sex to food.

Just as sex doesn't always have to be a method simply to make babies, she said, food doesn't always have to be purely for nutrition. Sometimes, she suggested, it's fine to eat a chocolate brownie simply for the wonderful sensation.

Sex is generally moral, she said, when it doesn't harm society and has meaning.

Although it's not official Catholic teaching, Traina said, most Catholics use some form of contraception.

Many of the 1,000 members of the Society of Christian Ethics are staking out a kind of middle ground on sexual ethics that does not embrace either the mass media's promotion of promiscuousness or the strict anti-sex admonitions of some religious authorities.

The new breed of Christian sexual ethicists generally believes traditional religions often have ignored the health and sexual desires of women, restricting them to the role of baby makers.

As a result, a growing chorus of women has been trying to broaden the definition of moral sex.

Many Christians, Traina said now believe sex between engaged couples, and even sexual experimentation among young people, including masturbation, is morally acceptable.

In addition, many papers and speakers at the meeting do not condemn homosexuality, suggesting a sexual relationship between homosexuals is not much different from sex within a heterosexual marriage.

When it comes to family planning and women's rights, many of the Christian ethicists have been joining with noted University of Victoria religion scholar Harold Coward and working on how Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and other religions could be better emphasizing the need to limit family size to protect the Earth.

Daniel Maguire, a religious ethicist from Marquette University in Milwaukee, has been studying different approaches to contraception and abortion in 10 world religions.

As co-author of "What Men Owe to Women," Maguire took part in a panel discussion at the conference on justice-oriented family planning, which supported "abortion as a backup when necessary."

The meeting revealed an explosion of interest in the changing shape of morality when it comes to sexuality, reproduction and spirituality.

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White House playing cupid for single mothers on welfare?

A story published today by the Buffalo News reports that Tanya M. Siragusa, single and pregnant with her third baby, is turning down a marriage proposal from President Bush.

It's not that she isn't flattered. It's just that, to Siragusa, Bush's "proposal" - a line in his budget designed to encourage single mothers on welfare to marry the fathers of their children - seems a bit irrelevant.

Siragusa is exactly the kind of woman Bush would like to see settled down and married: She's on welfare, she's on her own, and she has children.

That's why the Bush administration included in its 2003 budget proposal, released Monday, the $100 million item intended to promote "family formation" programs - including marriage programs for single welfare mothers.

Siragusa said she wants to marry the father of her new baby, a longtime friend, but added that she's not about to let any federal program hurry her into marriage.

"I wouldn't go for it," she said. "It wouldn't be worth it. Think of the long run. You'd have to go get a divorce because you're not going to get along - and you're not going to get along if you're forced into that situation."

Bush's marriage proposal will need approval in Congress before it becomes a reality. But the Republican administration's position on welfare in the 2003 budget plan is largely viewed as a moderate one.

On one side, there's the conservative-friendly marriage proposal, as well as increased funding for programs that teach sexual abstinence to teenagers.

But on the other, the Bush administration is resisting pressure from some conservatives to cut the overall amount of federal welfare funding now that five years has passed since the welfare reform act of 1996 - which cut welfare rolls across the nation drastically.

In the Bush administration, officials said the marriage proposal and steady-state welfare funding are no major break from the goals set forward in the 1996 welfare reform act - which contained a widely ignored clause calling on states to encourage two-parent families.

Michael F. Musante, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the marriage funding would work in the following way: A $100 million pot of money, if approved, will be included in the federal budget for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families - the renamed fund for public assistance, or welfare.

Soon, the Office of Family Assistance in the Department of Health and Human Services will write guidelines for the use of the money, which will then be available to private organizations and other groups who want to apply for funding for social programs. The programs must be geared toward the overall goal of marriage and the building of strong two-parent families, Musante said.

"All of this goes back to the well-being of children," Musante said. "If a child grows up in a two-person family, it's better for that child. And if it's better for the child, it's better for society."

It's women such as Siragusa and Martinez that make Bruce Reed doubt the Bush administration's marriage funding will have much of an impact.

Bruce Reed, chief domestic policy adviser to former President Bill Clinton, said that the 1996 act purposely steered away from pushiness in the marriage department, because it's an area with no certain answers - unlike work programs or welfare time limits, for example.

"If you spend any time with low-income women and men, there are a lot of reasons why they're not getting married. It's not because the government has been discouraging it," said Reed, who is now president of the Democratic Leadership Council in Washington, D.C.

Reed recalled a push by conservatives in 1996 to include a provision in the reform act requiring teenagers with children to be married before they could receive welfare benefits.

"That failed by a 3-to-1 margin. Even the Republicans realized that life is just a lot more complicated than that," said Reed.

Reed said that women - much like Siragusa - will not automatically buy into the Bush administration's marriage funding. Some states and social organizations may not, either, he said.

"Everybody is for marriage, but nobody's willing to require it, and nobody's certain how to make it happen," Reed said. "The good news is that the conservatives have run out of truly bad ideas - now they're pushing relatively innocuous but ineffective ones."

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Reconciliation, it turns out, is a growing business

A story published today by the Chicago Tribune reports that in response to a culture awash in divorce, the last decade saw the blossoming of a veritable industry dedicated to saving marriages.

"It's easier to get help than ever before," said Diane Sollee, director of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education. "People are getting it." "The research shows that couples who stay madly in love disagree to the same degree as couples who divorce," said Sollee, who is herself divorced. "The difference is, they know how to handle it. This isn't about airing your problems; it's about learning strategies to stop the behaviors that got you into trouble in the first place."

There are now plenty of places to learn those strategies. At the front end is premarital education, designed to teach couples what to expect and keep poor prospects from ever reaching the altar in the first place.

There are also covenant marriages--currently available in Arkansas, Arizona and Louisiana--where couples pledge to get counseling if they have difficulties. At the back end, there's a move to dismantle no-fault divorce laws that have been in effect since the 1970s. Restoring blame, the thinking goes, will make it more difficult for a spouse to walk away.

In between, there are dozens of programs--such as Marriage-Savers and Retrouvaille--that aim to mend, not end, a flawed relationship. The programs teach warring spouses the right way to keep slights from escalating into disagreements and disagreements from hardening into bitterness. Despite all these programs, the statistics have budged only slightly.

The divorce rate hovers around 40 percent, and the dissolution rate for second unions is even higher. So, say therapists, the solution is not merely shedding your mate because you bring problems with you. And not everyone applauds the trend.

Much marriage education seems overly trendy, said Ila Chaiken, a therapist at the Lilac Tree, an Evanston support organization for women going through a divorce. She fears that the current groundswell will keep women trapped in bad--or even dangerous--unions.

"There's a lot of hype," she said, pointing to one suburban program that "guarantees" to save foundering marriages.

Contrary to popular belief, only a small percentage of divorces are due to severe problems, such as chronic substance abuse or domestic violence. Most marital problems, therapists say, occur because of problems that are "unequivocally solvable," said Michelle Weiner-Davis, a Woodridge therapist and author of "Divorce Busting."

"The overriding question should be: How many of the divorces that occur are truly preventable? Not preventable just in terms of staying together for the sake of the kids, but preventable in terms of helping them rediscover what they love about each other and make their lives good again."

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Magazine reveals sex trends for men

A story released today by Ananova.com reports that according to a survey conducted by FHM magazine, half of young single men only have sex a few times year.

The magazine's readers have revealed sex trends such as the fact two-thirds say they have never cheated on their partners.

Of men with live-in partners 17% say they have sex every day compared with only 4% of married men.

More than two-thirds of the men (69%) said they had had between one and five one-night-stands, and 7% say they have had more than 20.

Two-thirds say they have never cheated on their partner and of those who had cheated, only 6% said they found it exciting and would do it again.

Almost half say they would never be unfaithful again, but 3% said they had cheated more than 10 times.


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