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September 09th 2011 print

Bill Muehlenberg

In Praise of Heterosexual Marriage and Parenting

For over fifty years now the social sciences have been telling us with the utmost clarity that there is no better guarantee of a child’s wellbeing than to have him or her raised in a heterosexual two-parent family, cemented by marriage.

For over fifty years now the social sciences have been telling us with the utmost clarity that there is no better guarantee of a child’s wellbeing than to have him or her raised in a heterosexual two-parent family, cemented by marriage. Thousands upon thousands of studies have made this perfectly clear. Children do best when raised by their own biological parents united in marriage.

I have been following this research for decades now. It is massive and irrefutable. Of course the radical social engineers want to ignore or discount this mountain of evidence, but they are simply living in denial. Family structure really does matter, and if the wellbeing of our children is paramount, then we should pay very close attention to what the research is telling us.

A few summary statements can be offered here. Armand Nicholi, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard medical school who has studied over forty years of research on the question of parental absence and children’s well-being said this: “What has been shown over and over again to contribute most to the emotional development of the child is a close, warm, sustained and continuous relationship with both parents.”

He goes on to make this observation: “One other comment about this research. In addition to the magnitude of it, the studies taken as a whole paint an unmistakably clear picture of the adverse effects of parental absence. Yet this vast body of research is almost totally ignored by our society. Why have even the professionals tended to ignore this research? Perhaps the answer is, to put it most simply, because the findings are unacceptable.”

Professor William Galston of the University of Maryland put it this way: “A substantial body of research suggests that family structure is an independent factor influencing the well-being of children. Even after correcting for variables such as family income, parental education, and prior family history, children from single-parent families tend on average to fare less well economically, educationally, and emotionally, and encounter more difficulties on the road to becoming self-sustaining adults.”

UK social science researcher Rebecca O’Neill makes this observation: “The weight of evidence indicates that the traditional family based upon a married father and mother is still the best environment for raising children, and it forms the soundest basis for the wider society. For many mothers, fathers and children, the ‘fatherless family’ has meant poverty, emotional heartache, ill health, lost opportunities, and a lack of stability. The social fabric – once considered flexible enough to incorporate all types of lifestyles – has been stretched and strained. Although a good society should tolerate people’s rights to live as they wish, it must also hold adults responsible for the consequences of their actions.”

And American family researcher David Blankenhorn put it this way: “Marriage does many fine things for human beings, but this one is probably the finest: It gives me as a child the mother and the father who made me.” He continues, “Marriage is the great gift that parents and society give to children.”

The evidence keeps mounting up. Just this week a new study by Professor Patrick Parkinson of the University of Sydney reaffirmed what the social sciences are telling us. In his important study, “For Kids’ Sake,” he documents how both children’s wellbeing and the state of heterosexual marriage have deteriorated in recent decades.

One press report covers this as follows: “The well-being of Australia’s children and young adults has declined sharply in the past decade – and sliding marriage rates are partly to blame, a study has found. Spiralling rates of child abuse and neglect, of children being placed in foster care and of teenage mental health problems – including a dramatic rise in hospitalisation for self-harm – are rooted in the rise of one-parent families and de facto couples, violent or unstable relationships and divorce, the report says.

“Its author, Patrick Parkinson, a Sydney University law professor, has called for a review of government family policy. ‘Governments in Australia cannot continue to ignore the reality that two parents tend to provide better outcomes for children than one, and that the most stable, safe and nurturing environment for children is when their parents are, and remain, married to one another,’ the report says.

“Among the signs of deteriorating well-being were:
-A tripling in the number of children notified for abuse or neglect since 1998.
-A doubling in the number of children in out-of-home care in 12 years.
-A 66 per cent increase in the rate of hospitalisation for self-harm for 12-14-year-olds between 1996-97 and 2005-06.
-An increase from 28 per cent to 38 per cent in female school students experiencing unwanted sex between 2002 and 2008.
-A doubling in the rate of hospitalisation for alcohol intoxication for women aged 15-24 between 1998-99 and 2005-06.”

Of interest, even the former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett has gotten on board with this report. This is what he says in an opinion piece today: “Many people think – but have been afraid to express it – that married couples in a loving relationship provide our children the best opportunity to prepare for a fulfilling and happy life. A report released this week, titled For Kids’ Sake and authored by Professor Patrick Parkinson of the University of Sydney, is a sober reminder of this.

“It says, in part: ‘The wellbeing of Australia’s children and young adults has declined sharply in the past decade, and …sliding marriage rates are partly to blame’. During my 11-year leadership of beyondblue, the national depression initiative, I have become increasingly concerned that so many children starting out in primary school are already stressed and anxious – at only five years old.

“Sadly, in most cases this stress and anxiousness is a direct result of the family learning pattern many children receive and observe at home. I further contend that the first seven years of a child’s life are the most important as this sets the values for children for the rest of their lives.

“Clearly the best environment in which to bring a child into the world is a stable, loving environment in which a male and female are married to each other. The existence of both genders is the environment in which that child will live his or her life – in a wider community where both genders are almost equally represented.”

He continues, “Sadly, many adults take their marriage vows lightly. It is perhaps an indication of the plastic society we live in today, where everything is changeable and tradeable. When challenges arise, some people feel it is best not to work through them but to walk away from the responsibilities that are a part of every relationship.

“With changes to family law in the 1970s, many marriages have become more easily disposable. This should never be the case, particularly when children are involved. As adults I think it is incumbent on us to do all we can as parents to resolve issues within a marriage, in the interests of those we have seen fit to bring into the world. Or at least until they have reached a mature age to handle any separation of parents.”

Kennett concludes: “All we can do is give our children the best possible opportunity in which to start their lives – being part of a family that is based on a marriage, in a loving relationship, that stands the test of time.”

Exactly right. All this is simply a matter of common sense. But sadly common sense is under a massive attack today by the various activist groups. Radical feminist and homosexual lobbies have been warring against the institutions of marriage and family for decades now.

Sadly, they have been fairly successful in all this, and today we are seeing the devastating results. Children everywhere are in crisis, as marriages break down and families crumble. And with more and more children deliberately being brought into the world outside of a heterosexual marriage, things will only get worse.

As Professor David Popenoe of Rutgers University puts it: “In three decades of work as a social scientist, I know of few other bodies of data in which the weight of evidence is so decisively on one side of the issue: on the whole, for children, two-parent families are preferable to single-parent families and step-families. If our prevailing views on family structure hinged solely on scholarly evidence, the current debate would never have arisen in the first place.”

If we continue to ignore this massive body of data, our societies and families will continue to crumble. And the biggest losers of all will be our children.