1st Place: "The Case for Heterosexual
Monogamous Marriage"

Aimee S. Farnsworth of Wasilla, Alaska

SquareTwo, Vol. 2 No. 3 (Fall 2009)


1 Comment





            According to animal behaviorist and evolutionary biologist Judith Hand, “the basic biological bottom line is to reproduce and have offspring that in turn have offspring” (Hand 2003).  In this aspect, humans do not differ from the rest of the species in the animal kingdom.  Just as every group of animals abides by a set of rules in order to maintain organization and structure, every human society has established a set of norms with the purpose of maintaining the balance of a sustainable social order.  

            Included in these norms, with the exception of a few anomalies, is a marriage culture of one form or another.  Because raging copulation without institutional commitment would not be conducive to well-ordered civilization, humankind invented rules of sexuality that serve to create and sustain children, thereby perpetuating the species and the society (Fisher 2006).  Assuming that the family is the “fundamental group unit of society” (United Nations 1948), family structure is central to social structure and is therefore both a private and a public matter.  Due to the vulnerability of children and the complexities of their long-term dependence on adults, the traditional family structure (founded on heterosexual monogamous marriage) has proven to be the most secure arrangement for raising children and maintaining population stability.  Because the state has a vested interest in the creation and upbringing of children who will, in turn, be beneficial to the state, heterosexual monogamous marriage should be privileged by the state above all other possible gender arrangements or household partnerships. 

Because of their lengthy childhood dependency, human children are particularly vulnerable and require stability throughout their development.

            One characteristic that sets humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom is their lengthy childhood dependency and vulnerability.  The physical and mental development of human beings require a much longer period of growth as compared to other animals.  Culture, society, and biology are all important aspects of human development, making it “multifactorial and complex” (Grigorenko 2001, 27).  For these reasons, humans, unlike 97% of the animal kingdom, pair up to rear their young (Fisher 2006).  According to childhood development scholar Martin Woodhead, “[children’s] dependency on others to protect their interests during the long period of human immaturity known as childhood means that judgments must continually be made by those responsible for them; although the length of their dependency and the cultural articulation of what is in their best interests will vary from society to society and from time to time” (Woodhead 1990, 76).  Raising children is undoubtedly a tremendous responsibility.  As noted by Hand, “[f]or every parent raising children, whether in the United States, Brazil, Thailand, or Ghana, the extensive costs involved (in time, energy, risk, and resources) resonate deeply” (Hand 2003).  Generally, the longer it takes the offspring of any animal to mature to adulthood, the greater and lengthier care is required of its parents.  In the case of humans, this care is “extraordinarily expensive” and unique in that their efforts entail not only teaching their young in terms of basic survival skills, but complex emotions as well (Hand 2003). 

Heterosexual monogamous couples joined in marriage are the best model for the protection and upbringing of children.

            By declaration of the United Nations, “[t]he best interests of the child shall be the guiding principle of those responsible for his education and guidance; that responsibility lies in the first place with his parents” (UNICEF 1989).  A child has the right to complete confidence in and dependence on its parents, whether their relations are biological or adoptive.  There are many possible gender arrangements and household partnerships in which a child may be raised.  However, the most efficient and effective method of raising children, especially during the long years of childhood dependency, is through the traditional family model—married heterosexual parents with one or more children.  The need for marriage, as opposed to casual mating, is that human children require multifaceted long-term care and protection.  The human child therefore demands a higher level of commitment and permanence from its parents than a ‘mate and move on’ relationship obliges.  Because of the inherent need to protect and increase the species, any relationship detracting from the biological female-male relationship naturally decreases the survivability of the species, and humans are no exception. 

            Marriage is not only the public and lawful recognition of the love shared by a couple; it is a structure that allows for proper and full development of the child, both physically and emotionally.  Philosopher and scholar Sylviane Agacinski explains the biological necessity of exactly two parents—one a male and the other a female.  “There are not two parents because they love each other, but because heterogeneity of the race is necessary and sufficient for creating life” (Agacinski 2001, xiv).  She also points out that “marriage was not instituted to legalize heterosexuality, but to regulate filiation” (Agacinski 2001, xiii).  That is, the original purpose of marriage was to standardize and govern the relationships of parents with their offspring. 

            After extensive research on the evolution of the family, the French National Assembly stated in 2006 that, “[b]ecause of its higher level of commitment, permanence and judicial support for children (in divorce), marriage offers the greatest protection and benefits for children and society” (DeSerres 2006, 1).  France has also affirmed that, “[b]ecause of the filiative nature of marriage (the fact of being the child of certain parents), it is essential that the male-female nature of marriage be preserved” (DeSerres 2006, 1).  France has therefore declared marriage to be “the only structure reserved strictly to heterosexual couples” (DeSerres 2006, 1). 

            This legislative choice echoes the biological fact that same-sex couples ‘are naturally infertile’ and that the development of the child’s identity—including the knowledge that, like other members of the human race, he or she originated from the two halves of humanity--necessarily comes ‘from the union of a man and a woman’ (DeSerres 2006, 1).  In nature, both sexes donate to the conception of a child.  If they remain together, parents are required to make large, cooperative investments in their children.  When males and females spend years raising their children together in a setting of equality, their children eventually comprehend the finite yet complementary natures of the different sexes, better understanding their own sex in the process.  Additionally, were the child to be educated by same-sex parents, the ‘loss of the analogy between the original couple and the couple educating him’ would prove to be a lack of continuity for the child, to the child’s own detriment (DeSerres 2006, 1).  

            Among cohabiting couples, break up rates are much higher as compared to married couples, which can have deleterious effects on the child as well.  One study found that “[c]ohabiting partners tend to have a weaker sense of couple identity, less willingness to sacrifice for the other, and a lower desire to see the relationship go long term.  This holds true even in nations where cohabitation has become common and institutionalized” (Popenoe 2008, 13).  In addition, the augmentation of filial links as parents choose multiple sexual partners confuses the child.  Domestic violence is yet another factor that concerns the child’s physical and mental well-being.  Consistently higher levels of violence toward women and children have been observed in the families of cohabiting couples.  Statistics show that women in cohabiting relationships are at twice the risk of domestic violence than women in married relationships, while the risk is even greater for children (Popenoe & Whitehead 2002).  According to another report, ‘[c]hildhood in a broken family…is more likely than average to be unhappy [and] to involve violence, abuse, debt, drug/alcohol problems, as well as high levels of anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and mental illness’ (Popenoe 2008, 17). 

            From an economic perspective, the single-parent family structure diminishes the child’s chance of survival unless a second parent is equally included in the upbringing and care for the child over the lengthy course of its development.   Polyamorous relationships are economically ineffective for the upbringing of children as well.  For example, if a child’s paternal heritage is uncertain, the father is less inclined to support the child and its mother, which decreases the child’s chances of survival.  Polygyny is also inefficient for the fact that one man must be the sole economic provider for multiple wives and children.  Heterosexual monogamous marriages have statistically been proven to be more fiscally responsible than cohabitation for the protection and upbringing of children (Popenoe 2009, 20).

            Unfortunately, any problem the child may suffer due to a lack of responsibility by either of its parents is often weighted equally with its parents’ freedom to choose an ‘alternative’ lifestyle—some arrangement other than traditional marriage.  Because ‘alternative’ lifestyles are biologically, psychologically, and economically inferior to traditional marriage where the rearing of children is concerned, a child’s rights are infringed upon when one or the other of its parents chooses an alternative to heterosexual monogamous marriage.  

The state has a vested interest in children, and therefore in monogamous heterosexual marriages.

            Because it has been declared “the natural and fundamental group unit of society,” the family is “entitled to protection by society and the State” (United Nations 1948).  Stable, responsible citizens are required to build stable, responsible nations.  In order to function properly and maintain order, the state needs a continual influx of productive, publicly-minded citizens.  Heterosexual monogamous marriage can provide a stable family structure that serves as an economic engine for the state.  For this reason, marriage has been sanctioned by the state in order to protect it as an institution. 

            However, the fairly recent deterioration of marriage, attributed in part to a rise in cohabitation, has led to a decline in birthrates worldwide, creating a glitch in the economic engine (National Marriage Project 2007, 13-15).  Cohabiting couples are less likely than married couples to have children, and the delaying of marriage due to cohabitation is highly correlated with lower fertility levels as women bear children in later years of life (Popenoe 2008, 15-16).  According to the United States’ Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a demographic revolution called ‘global aging’ is sweeping the world.  Global aging is the term used to describe the falling birthrates and rising life spans in both developing and developed countries.  Demographers state that “[w]orldwide, the fertility rate has fallen from 5.0 to 2.7 since the mid-1960s… Meanwhile, since World War II, global life expectancy has risen from around age 45 to around age 65, for a greater gain over the past 50 years than over the previous 5,000” (CSIS 2009).  While growing old has been an expected trend during recent history, the delayed results of falling birthrates are new, and are, according to demographers, something to be concerned about.  CSIS experts claim that such demographic decline “will subject nations around the world to extraordinary economic, social, and political challenges,” and it is looming mere decades away (CSIS 2009). 

            Demographers Neil Howe and Richard Jackson point out that demographics have “always played a decisive role in precipitating many of the great invasions, political upheavals, migrations and environmental catastrophes of history” (Howe & Jackson 2009).  They explain how demographic decline may compound current financial, economic and political struggles on a global scale as soon as the 2020s:

            For the world's wealthy nations, the 2020s are set to be a decade of hyperaging and population decline. Many countries will experience fiscal crisis, economic stagnation and ugly political battles over entitlements and immigration. Meanwhile, poor countries will be buffeted by their own demographic storms. Some will be overwhelmed by massive age waves that they can't afford, while others will be whipsawed by new explosions of youth whose aspirations they cannot satisfy. The risk of social and political upheaval and military aggression will grow throughout the developing world -- even as the developed world's capacity to deal with these threats weakens (Howe & Jackson 2009).

            The 2020s will be an especially vulnerable time in demographic history because of the baby boomer generation’s widespread movement into retirement.  Since “graying means paying” and most developed countries’ old-age benefit systems are “already pushing the limits of fiscal and economic affordability,” economic strife between the old and the young in the near future seems unpreventable (Howe & Jackson 2009).  The United States is currently the exception to hyperaging.  However, this is due to the fact that the United States is the only developed nation that maintains replacement-rate fertility (2.1 children per woman), which is partly sustained by substantial immigrant birthrates (Demographic Winter 2008). 

            Not one European country has replacement-rate fertility, and nine out of the 10 countries with the lowest birthrates are in Europe (Demographic Winter 2008).  In other words, the United States’ future hegemonic position is not in question, but rather its challenge will be “the inability of the other developed nations to be of much assistance,” when the “demographic storms” hit the developing world (Howe & Jackson 2009).   Impending age waves in Russia (where birth rates have fallen by more than 50% since 1990) and China (projected to be ‘older’ than the US by 2030 as the huge Red Guard generation moves into retirement) will be only a part of the problem. 

            Not all countries will be aging as rapidly, however.  Demographers predict that some developing regions, including Sub-Saharan Africa and several Muslim-majority countries (many of which practice polygyny) “will still be racked by large youth bulges” (Howe & Jackson).  The unfortunate correlation between extreme youth and violence that has been previously demonstrated by such regions is bound to continue unless fertility drops, which is possible.  Howe and Jackson explain that population trends can fluctuate radically.  “It’s a law of demography that when a population boom is followed by a bust, it causes a ripple effect, with a gradually fading cycle of echo booms and busts” (Howe & Jackson 2009).  Such echo booms will be especially problematic for countries like Pakistan, whose “social fabric is already strained by rapid development” (Howe & Jackson 2009). 

            Heterosexual monogamous marriage on a worldwide level could very well help to control and stabilize these erratic shifts in birthrate.  Marriage is a long-term, self-sustaining institution that creates and nurtures children into adulthood.  Its very nature requires stability, which in turn, maintains a more stable society.  Married women and men are more likely than cohabiting couples to contribute to a society’s replacement-rate fertility—the necessary 2.1 children (Popenoe 2008, 15-16).  A greater focus on heterosexual monogamous marriage will predictably lead to a slow but steady change for the better in birthrate.


            The functional purpose of marriage is the creation and development of children, which benefit modern society and the state both structurally and economically.  Although familial living arrangements differ vastly throughout the world, research has shown that child development and social progress are greatly enhanced when family structure is based on the marriage of monogamous heterosexual couples.  The mounting fiscal burden posed by global aging will be a particular challenge for many states in the near future, as well as the social and cultural consequences that come with it.  If states privilege heterosexual monogamous marriage over any other gender arrangement or household partnership, they may see a change for the better in those trends over time.  The change may be slow, but its lethargy would only serve to enhance its stability, moderating the birthrate rather than sending off a ricochet of demographic booms and busts.     

            Children may serve families and the state economically, but families and the state serve children by nourishing them and protecting their rights.  The results are reciprocal.  If the state wants to reap the benefits of children who are raised to be productive, well-adjusted citizens, then the state must work to rebuild a culture of intact families with monogamous heterosexual marriages as their foundation.  The necessary changes can be made as families and the state cooperate in the renovation of heterosexual monogamous marriage. 



Agacinski, Sylviane.  2001.  Parity of the Sexes.  New York: Columbia University Press.

CSIS.  2009.  Global Aging Initiative.  At < http://www.csis.org/gai/>.  10 June 2009.

Demographic Winter.  2008.  SRB Documentary and Acuity Productions, Utah.  56 min.

DeSerres, Louis.  2006.  Summary of the French Parliamentary Commission Report On the Family And the Rights of Children.  Presented to the French National Assembly, Paris,  January 26.

Fisher, Helen.  2006.  Marriage and Monogamy.   On Philosphy Talk.  Original air date 14             February 2006.  At <http://www.philosophytalk.org/pastShows/MarriageandMonogamy.html>.  3 June 2006. 

Grigorenko, Elena L.  2001.  Arguing for the Concept of Developmental Niche.  In Family             Environment and Intellectual Functioning: A Life Span Perspective. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Hand, Judith L.  2003.  Biological Differences Between Men and Women With Respect to Social             Stability and Aggression.  At < http://www.afww.org/BiologicalDifferences.html>.  12 June 2009. 

Howe, Neil and Richard Jackson.  2009.  The world won’t be aging gracefully.  Just the opposite. The Washington Post.  At < http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-           dyn/content/article/2009/01/02/AR2009010202231.html>.  8 June 2009.

National Marriage Project.  2007.  The State of Our Unions 2007: The Social Health of Marriage in America.  Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

Popenoe, David and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead.  2002.  Cohabitation: The Marriage Enemy.              USA Today.  At < http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/columnists/
>.  10 June 2009.

Popenoe, David.  2008.  Cohabitation, Marriage, and Child Well-Being: A Cross-National Perspective.  New Jersey: The National Marriage Project.

UNICEF.  1989.  Convention on the Rights of the Child. At < http://www.unhchr.ch/

United Nations.  1948.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  At <http://www.
/>.  15 June 2009.

United Nations.  2008.  United Nations Programme on the Family: Social integration and family responsibilities.  At < http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/family/idf00.html>.  15 June 2009.

Woodhead, Martin.  1990.  Psychology and the Cultural Construction of Children’s Needs.  In Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood.  United Kingdom: Falmer Press.


Full Citation for This Article: Farnsworth, Aimee S. (2009) "The Case for Heterosexual Monogamous Marriage," SquareTwo, Vol. 2 No. 3 (Fall), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleFarnsworthMarriage.html, accessed [give access date].

Would you like to comment on this article? Thoughtful, faithful comments of at least 300 words are welcome. Please submit to SquareTwo.

COMMENTS: 1 Comment

Christian Buckley, March 2010

While I agree with the premise and arguments in support of heterosexual monogamous marriage put forth by Sister Farnsworth, I don't believe that these points truly reflect the argument inside (and outside) the LDS community on this topic. The data that defends traditional marriage and the role of the family in society is, as outlined in the article, incontrovertible. However, the real argument is not whether traditional marriage is better for society, but whether we as members of the church should stand in the way of alternate legal definitions of the family, such as homosexual partnerships.

To clarify my own position: I fully support the church's position on the topic of marriage, and specifically, view the Proclamation on the Family as direct revelation; I was an ardent supporter of various propositions while living in California, and did my part by walking my precinct in support of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA); I am a vocal defender of the traditional family, which has led to many difficult discussions with extended family members, friends, and co-workers.

However, when the discussion turns to the legality of non-traditional marriage and the right of the state to determine alternative family models, many members struggle to maintain their position. Right now, the majority of voters agree that traditional marriage should be the law of the land. However, from a legal and political standpoint, I believe it is only a matter of time before we lose this argument. Based purely on the logic, reasoning, and legalese of the opposition, we will soon find ourselves out-voted in the legal courtroom and the courtroom of public opinion.

I am not suggesting we stop defending traditional marriage, but believe that we need to recalibrate. We need to recognize that the defense of traditional marriage and the fight against non-traditional marriage are being treated as two separate arguments by the opposition. We can defend the former, but by not recognizing the different arguments behind the latter, we will continue to struggle. The case for "square one" is made by Sister Farnsworth. We have our baseline. The data defends this position. Now we need to clarify our arguments for square two.