The better the parental relationship the higher the level of education reached by children, on average (Nepal)
In a study in Nepal, children whose parents reported loving each other attained higher levels of education and married later, on average. In fact, the happier the parents were with their relationship, the later their children were likely to marry. The strong correlations were found for both boys and girls, for families of all ethnicities (including different castes), and for parents of different levels of education and wealth.
The data were taken from the Chitwan Valley Family Study in Nepal. At the start of the study, in 1996, married mothers and fathers individually completed questionnaires that included two very simple questions about their marital relationship: “How much do you love your husband/wife?” and “Has your husband/wife ever beaten you?” Then, 12 years later, mothers were asked to recount their children’s progress. The mothers reported how long children who were 16 or younger in 1996 stayed in education. They also reported when their children who were 15-24 in 1996 got married. The study included 2,714 children in the educational measurement and 667 children in the marriage measurement.
Combining their findings with those from other studies – mostly in developed countries – the researchers propose three mechanisms by which a happy marital relationship might benefit children:
- Happier couples may be investing more resources in their children, which could be influencing their education positively.
- Children in happy families are likely to enjoy stronger socialization generally and may develop stronger commitment to family life. This could influence later marriage, something that is associated with more stability in marriage.
- Children are likely to want to stay longer in a happy home. In Nepal, young people rarely live alone or with housemates or in school/work accommodation, so marriage is the main route out of living at home.
Marriage is almost universal in Nepal, with arranged marriages still predominant. Unmarried cohabitation and divorce are rare. The situation, however, is changing. In the data used for this study, no spouses married in 1936-45 reported being involved in the choice of their spouse. About half who married in 1986-95 were involved. The median age of women marrying was 16.4 in 1996 and 17.9 in 2016. These trends are characteristic of the whole of South Asia.
Header photo: Seki Chin. Creative Commons.