African American Men & Marriage

Crowlaws“I, Nick Cannon, take you Mariah Carey, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part. ” African American superstar, Nick Cannon has beat the odds of being an African American men and getting married. This vow is rarely said by most of the African American males population. Over the last twenty-five years, marriage rates among African American males have declined dramatically.

By 1994, the percentage of never-married men increased to 42. 4 percent and only 46 percent of African American men were married (Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1995). This in fact has only worsened as shown on the Census 2000 Demographic Profile, as only 7% of African American males were married,not including couples that were separated. Declining marriage rates among African American men have had a tremendous impact on the quality of life of African American families, in particular the children.

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These negative effects, lead to a downward spiral of tradition of African American males not marrying and creates a social norm by which the next generation of African American men have been accustomed to. One can wonder about the various reasons as to why African American men have been found to be the least likely to commit. One reason in, particular, is that the majority of African American men have been raised in single parent homes with their mothers or grandmothers being both mom and dad. The role of a husband is foreign to them and may even seem unnecessary.

Again the fear of playing a role that was never demonstrated can make him shy away from the responsibility all together. Women being the head of the household has been a contributing factor to the way African American men have raised to think a family should be run. M. Belinda Tucker and her co-author Claudia Mitchell-Kernan viewed the female-headed African American family as both a symptom and source of family disorganization and illustrates how having African American males married and in a household can negatively effect the children involved:

The widespread disorganization of family life among African Americans have affected practically every phase of their community life and adjustment… Because of the absence of stability in family life, there is a lack of tradition. Life among a large portion of the Urban African American population is casual, precarious, and fragmentary. It lack continuity and its roots so not go deeper than the contingencies of daily living. This affects the socialization of African American children.

With a fourth to a third of African American families in cities without a male head, man African American children suffer the initial handicap of not having the discipline and authority in the home. African American mothers who have the responsibility for the support of the family are forced to neglect their children who pick up all forms of socially disapproved behavior in the disorganized areas in which these families are concentrated. (Tucker, 1995, pp. 4) Tucker statement illustrates the need for African American men to commit and marry in order to help raise the next generation.

This make sense even today as one can look at the number of kids in schools and the juvenile system who have been found to consistently get into trouble. When looked into the delinquents personal background it is common to find them coming from a house hold lacking a male head. Another factor that holds a very unfortunate impact on African American marriage is the financial side of the equation. There is a fear having a relationship that will destroy them financially. The idea of possibly having to give up half of their money or livelihood if the relationship fails can prevent them from legally committing to anyone.

Contrary to the being afraid of losing money, African American men often fear the thought of not being able to provide as a husband should. As a result they decide to wait until they are much older and financially stable to marry and begin a family to avoid the feeling of not being a provider. However what these men fail to realize, is that times have changed and there are substantially greater benefits to marrying especially for African American males. One general benefit is that marriage shapes child well-being, it proves to be highly beneficial for African American males throughout the life course.

For example, when African American boys live with their father in the home, particularly their married father, they typically receive substantially more parental support. As a result of this better parenting, African American boys with married parents are markedly less likely to become delinquent and they also tend to do better in school. In the teenage years, having married parents apparently protects against early sexual debut and pregnancy. In adulthood, marriage is associated with a range of better outcomes for African American men, from $4,000 increases in wages to greater happiness with family life. 2] Marriage in addition appears to inhibit crime. As local marriage rates increase in Black communities, violent crime decreases. Having married parents seems to be a surprisingly important promoter of infant health among African Americans. Marriage clearly matters for African Americans. There is strong evidence that it is a vital source of economic security and greater psychosocial well-being. Policies geared towards increasing marriage rates in the African American community—particularly the number of high quality marriages—are likely to substantially increase the well-being of African American men, women, and children.

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