Where will Your Teenagers learn about SEX, LOVE, and MARRIAGE?
Paul W Kroll & Richard Gipe
Most teen-agers and young adults want to marry. They want togetherness, security, a family — happiness! Yet, teenage marriages are shattered by divorce at an unprecedented rate! WHY?
FULLY FIFTY PERCENT of all teenage marriages end in divorce within five years! The younger a person marries, the greater his or her chances of marital failure. And to compound the problems, about half of all American brides are teen-agers! WHY this ugly social problem? It's about time parents and teen-agers understood.
Who's Teaching "the Birds and the Bees?"
Many experts have actually pinpointed the cause, but no one seems to heed. Most marital difficulties, say the experts, are caused by the MISINFORMED SOURCES from which young people get their ideas on sex, dating and choosing a mate! A recent survey was conducted to find out WHERE young people get information and ideas on sex, love and marriage. This question was put to PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) members across the country. The results were shocking! Twenty-two percent of them mentioned other children as their sons' and daughters' sources of information. Some of these influences were considered good, and many were not so good" (Love and the Facts of Life, Evelyn Duvall, p. 72). The statistics vary from survey to survey. In another survey, mentioned later, approximately 25% of the teen-agers cited their peer group as a major source of ideas about sex and marriage. Still other studies found that between ONE THIRD and ONE HALF of both boys and girls named friends as their chief source of information. In any case, the point is that friends and peers very heartily influence teen-ager's sex and marriage knowledge. One might well have some qualms about other children as sex educators and wonder about the nature of the "education." Can young boys and girls really have complete and mature knowledge about the subject? Their very preoccupation with sex reveals a poor orientation as to what it's all about.
Teachers Are Failing
In this same nationwide survey, young men and women revealed other sources influencing their ideas on sex, love and marriage. A few, but only a few, pointed to the churches and schools as their sources of information. "Studies since 1960 find fewer than three percent of today's youth crediting their religious leaders with their sex education. Scout leaders, doctors, nurses, and other responsible professional persons are of help to EQUALLY SMALL percentages of today's teen-agers" (Duvall, p. 70). Those who should have studied — and have the experience and maturity to offer some help — are reaching only a few. Of course, many doctors, religious leaders, educators are themselves having marital problems. School systems are reaching only a few more than the churches. Unfortunately, up to this time, there has been very little increase in the number of young people who get what they need from the schools. In 1938, 8% of the young people studied by the American Youth Commission gave the school as the source of their sex education. Since 1960, studies have found about the same small percentage of teen-agers crediting either teachers or school counselors with teaching them this vital knowledge. Few young people feel they are receiving much essential marriage education in our schools.
How About Books?
A survey revealed that one out of every three boys and one out of four girls said they learned what they knew about dating and marriage preparation from reading books. The question is, "What kind of books and what information do they contain?" Some few books undoubtedly are helpful, but sane and balanced books on sex and marriage are seldom found — and seldom read. Much of the education is coming from racy novels, love stories, true confessions, soap operas, advertisements, movies and the like — sources filled with mis-education. One co-ed in a private university in New York put it this way, "I actually think young couples are pressured into sex today because of what they think everybody else is doing, what they see on television, in the movies and what Madison Avenue promotes." Young people who try to pattern their lives after the fiction of books and movies are in for a shock! The result is experimentation with premarital sex, early marriage — and often divorce. But no happiness. There are also the "self-help" books which claim to give all the facts on sex, love and marriage. Take a look at what some of these authorities are writing concerning love and marriage. Here's a quote from the book, Love, Sex and the Teen-ager, written by Dr. R. L. Lorand, a leading psychotherapist and psychoanalyst. The book is fully endorsed by other "authorities" and readily available in print. Notice what the author tells teen-agers and PARENTS: He asks this question. "How do I know if I'm in love?" The answer: "Being in love is above all things stimulating and exhilarating. The natural tendency to greatly overestimate the beloved is what makes people say that love is blind. The person you are in love with is the greatest and most divine person in the world. And the fact that this extraordinary, HEAVEN-SENT CREATURE loves you makes you feel like a very special person yourself. Boys feel that no feat is too difficult, girls feel that no sacrifice is great enough to prove their love. One's heart is open, the world is paradise and EVERYTHING is possible. LOVERS ARE LUNATICS is just another way of saying you're usually slightly out of your mind when you're in love — the most delicious form of insanity `known to man.' "In a sense, one's ego stops functioning. It temporarily CEASES TO JUDGE REALITY with any degree of accuracy. " (p. 161, emphasis ours). There you have it! With advice like that, most young couples simply rush into marriage — without thinking of the consequences. Their heads are swimming with idyllic ideas of romance — that never come to pass in reality.
The Influence of Parents
Parents may not realize how much their children look to them for marital guidance. "Surveys since 1960 have turned up 40% of the parents credited by their children with their sex education [also, this would presuppose marriage instruction]. Considerably more girls than boys say that they get their sex education in their own homes..." (Love and the Facts of Life, Duvall, p. 68). In another survey, the question was asked: "Where do most of your ideas about marriage come from?" The 121 girls interviewed listed the following sources:
TV & Movies - 16 Friends - 30 Oneself - 35 Home - 73
Since "oneself" as a source is dubious and impossible (we know nothing at birth and must learn everything), parents come out as the overwhelming source of information about marriage. At least, so said the girls. To what degree do Dad and Mom affect their children? Recently a rather large survey was conducted trying to discover to what extent close family ties affect the morality of children. This survey disclosed that those who are most influenced by their families were the least sexually promiscuous. What does this. mean? It means that parents have a profound effect on how their children will conduct their lives after leaving home. Yes, and even how happy their marriages will be. Many young people earnestly desire help from their parents. Many more need to. Parents should know their children better than any living human being. They are in the best position to offer the help that young people need. But do even they have the answers? Unfortunately, not as often as they should! "A considerable number [of parents] volunteered the information that even though they thought they ought to discuss the facts of life with their children, they actually found that they were tongue-tied when confronted with their children's sex questions. "Many of the mothers admitted being UNCOMFORTABLE AND UNEASY in talking about the personal side of life with their own children. Some of them recognize that their embarrassment stemmed from their own inadequate sex education from their parents. As one mother put it, 'In my growing-up years we just didn't ask. We simply guessed at answers and put two and two together on our own"' (Duvall, p. 58). Questions on sex, love and marriage have puzzled more than a few parents. Dad and Mom often find that the lessons they learned in the school of hard knocks are not always easy to put into words. Often they just DON'T KNOW the answers because their parents didn't teach them. Parents should have the background and ability to teach their children. And by the fact that they are parents, they have the responsibility of being the best marriage counselors for their children. Who, but a parent, understands his child well enough to give such personal advice and help? It's not that many parents are apathetic and just don't care. Most do. As a sociologist at San Diego State College put it: "The main problem is the lack of any real guidance here." Parents usually end up doing nothing. "There are hundreds of thousands," said one worker, "who out of their own dilemmas, unhappiness, UNSUITABILITY AS PARENTS, lack of discipline or a myriad of characteristics have created and exerted pressures on their daughters for early marriage" (Teenage Marriage and Divorce, edited by S. M. Farber, and R. H. Wilson, p. 33). If these parents aren't aware that girls generally SHOULD NOT marry as teen-agers, one has reason to wonder about other "instruction" on sex, love, and marriage.
A Massive Survey
Recently, Vance Packard published his 553-page book, The Sexual Wilderness. The massive volume surveyed and analyzed the contemporary upheaval in male-female relationships. Packard spent four years in research for his book, consulting 300 professional people; sent questionnaires which were answered by more than 2,000 students in U. S. and foreign universities; visited 130 colleges; attended seven national conferences. His reference material could be stacked in a pile reaching 30 feet in the air. His conclusion? "In the past there have almost always been rules, standards, and sharply defined roles for each sex... today, the rules, standards, and assigned roles are in disarray" (page 13). Then, on page 16, Packard gave the summary of a report on college students: "In the matter of managing sexual drive, the late adolescent's problems are compounded by the fact that the ADULT WORLD itself has NO CLEAR STANDARDS OF BEHAVIOR!" It is no wonder that parents and adults in schools, the professions, the religious leaders are unable to give sound advice on sex, love, and marriage. Adults THEMSELVES are bewildered as to what the right standards, information and basic principles governing these aspects of life really are. Most parents admit they don't have the answers! When we see the divorce statistics — the unhappy marriage statistics — we can only surmise that something is wrong with the SOURCES of the information. Since, according to the teen-agers, they get a hefty share of their information and teaching from parents, the only conclusion is that the PARENTS ARE FAILING. That means a lot of young people are running around thinking they know all they need to know about sex, dating and marriage when they really don't know anything at all. After all, they have asked someone, haven't they?
Computer Turned "Marriage Counselor"
Because all else has failed, some are turning to another source — computers. Over one million people in the United States have subscribed to computer dating services. Many of these agencies have sprung up across the nation and around the world, and have in recent years blossomed into a multi-million dollar business. One agency in Los Angeles, California advertises 15,000 new matches completed every month. A number of these matches result in marriage, hopefully successful. Of course, there are many "fly-by-night" operations. The more exclusive services actually employ staff psychologists. They issue a battery of tests, and with the aid of the computer and personal counsel from a psychologist, couples are matched according to "compatibility." After following their matched couples through life for 10 years, one firm reported a divorce rate of only 3%. Still another has had over 400 marriages with only 3 divorces, or less than 1 % divorce. One psychologist started arranging marriages by IBM in 1957. Out of 500 marriages he reported only 1 divorce. One in five hundred certainly looks good compared to the current average. A good lesson can be learned from these bona fide "computer dating" organizations. First, the people who come to them WANT marriage, bad enough to pay for it. This usually means they are willing to WORK AT IT. The people they meet will have many areas in common with them. They will enjoy doing the same things, their backgrounds, attitudes and interests will be much the same. They will at least have some semblance of a foundation for successful marriage. They are counseled by a no-nonsense professional who tells them the realities of married life. This, of course, is the key! It is the proper counsel before and during courtship that is of such vital importance. Here is where parents primarily — and other mature individuals — should be providing SOUND INFORMATION, COUNSEL AND GUIDANCE TO YOUNG PEOPLE. It needs to be given long before marriage. Dating plays an important role in success or failure in marriage. Marriage is a result of dating. That is a fact. However, today, dating often degenerates into a state of merely "being together." It is often full of heartache, often full of problems and mistakes.
Proper Dating — A Key to Successful Marriage
Teenage is a time of sex discovery. It is the process of growing up, coming to puberty — the full sexual awareness of oneself and of other people. Yet, long before this, parents should have been teaching children the true meaning of sex — its proper place in marriage — and the absolute FACT that it is a sacred and wholesome thing. Children should be taught how to date. They should be taught the two real purposes of dating, 1) to develop personality and charm, and 2) to grow toward a successful, happy marriage. Teen-agers should be taught that you don't develop your personality in the back seat of a car, parked on a dark, lonely roadside. You don't learn to converse about important things slumped in a seat in some dimly lit movie house. Parents should teach their children that there are absolute, living, spiritual LAWS that govern dating, sex and marriage which do exact penalties when broken. They should understand and teach the great purpose of marriage. And teen-agers, by the living example of parents, should have long ago become aware of what makes a truly happy marriage. But how can parents who often do not practice these things be expected to teach their children? And how can pastors who do not know these principles be expected to teach parents how to teach their children? Very few teen-agers, even in this age which vaunts its "frankness," are taught — by parents especially — the really essential knowledge they must have on the subject of sex! Much of what they learn is from the traditional "gutter."
Vital Help Not Given
Usually, the two critical aspects of parent-child relationship in the matter of sexual and marriage guidance — right parental example, and positive teaching — are woefully neglected. Whenever teen-agers or young people are interviewed, they almost always complain that parents DO NOT communicate with them — or set the right example. Teen-agers feel uneasy and afraid to discuss problems which crop up in this vital area of their lives. Often, there is absolutely no bond between parent and teen-ager. In one typical interview, a senior in high school was asked to tell about her parents. Her incredible answer was: "I really hate them both... my father is really a kind of pseudo-hip. I really pity him because he's very weak... my mother's really dominating... She delights in humiliating him in front of us, tearing him down" (The Music of Their Laughter, Roderick Thorp and Robert Blake, Harper and Row, 1970, pages 83 and 84). Later, this teen-ager was asked, "Do you figure that your father loves your mother?" The answer was "No." Did her mother love her father? Again, the answer was "No." Another girl, barely twenty years of age, was asked whether she received sex instruction — and of her ability to communicate with her parents — especially her father. Her somewhat typical answer was: "I have no respect for my father. I don't think there's anything binding my father and me. I never got any sex education when I was younger. I came by it, I guess like most girls my age do, in school, dirty jokes, dirty books" (ibid., page 96). These examples are all too common — a tragedy of our age. Parents have lost the respect of their sons and daughters. Often, parents do not even realize they've lost the confidence of their teen-agers. Reason? Parents have failed to see the absolute necessity of communicating with and positively teaching their children from the earliest age. The "reasons" and excuses are many. Parents have farmed out their children to fend for themselves. Mom worked. Dad was too busy with his job. They just didn't realize their responsibility. Is it no wonder that teen-agers cannot look to parents for help in perhaps the MOST critical years of their lives? The decisions they make now are going to start them on the road to either success or failure.
Some Advice For Parents
What should parents do? For those who are just beginning to rear their children — the time to start is NOW! Realize that you have an awesome responsibility to teach the pliable minds which have been entrusted to your care. You still have time to avoid critical mistakes! Be sure your own marriage is heading in the right direction. Only then can it serve as a right example during the years your children develop and mature. Above all, teach your children — establish contact with them. Keep it always. Don't let job, activities, selfish interests interfere with this absolute need your children have. They must have contact, communication, positive teaching and instruction from You. The world "out there," as they say, is a cruel place. They need you — even if they don't want to admit it! They will deeply appreciate it later on. We have three pieces of literature which can help you to fulfill your responsibility as parents. One booklet, FREE of charge, is called Your Marriage Can Be Happy. It shows how you can build happiness into your marriage so it can serve as an example to your children and teen-agers. You can also receive a free copy of our book, Plain Truth About Child Rearing. It explains HOW parents should train their children — throughout infancy, early childhood and into the teenage years — to grow up to be responsible adults. You also need another specially prepared book on the subject of dating and marriage, titled Modern Dating — Key to Success or Failure in Marriage. It covers such vital subjects as, "The Art of Dating" and "How to Select a Mate." Get your FREE copy by writing for it today. All are sent free as an educational service in the public interest. Simply ask for them by name. One Final Word For Teen-agers: Communication is a two-way process. Realize that two wrongs do not make one right. Perhaps parents have made mistakes. Who hasn't? We are all human. But respond to your parents. Listen to their advice. Don't make the mistakes they may have made as teen-agers!