All in the familyJOHN LEO
Why a strong, intact home life is the biggest single factor in raising good, successful kids.
A good deal of hard evidence shows that this is so. Two decades of research produced a consensus among social scientists of both left and right that family structure has a serious impact on children, even when controlling for income, race, and other variables. In other words, we are not talking about a problem of race but about a problem of family formation or, rather, the lack of it. The best outcomes for children — whether in academic performance, avoidance of crime and drugs, or financial and economic success — are almost invariably produced by married biological parents. The worst results are by never-married women.
High crime. In a policy brief released last week, the Washington-based Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, http://www.marriagedebate.com/pdf/imapp.crimefamstructure.pdf looked at 23 recent studies dealing with family structure and youth crime. In 19 of the 20 studies that found family structure to have an effect, children from nonintact or single-parent families had a higher rate of crime or delinquency. Neighbourhoods with lots of out-of-wedlock births have lots of crime. Ominously, one study said that the more single-parent families there were in a neighborhood, the more crime there was among two-parent kids living around them. Again, these studies are controlled for race.
Among the other findings:
The upshot of these studies is that America is confronted by a form of poverty that money alone can't cure. Many of us think social breakdown is a result of racism and poverty. Yes, they are factors, but study after study shows that alterations in norms and values are at the heart of economic and behavioral troubles. That's why so much research boils down to the old rule: If you want to avoid poverty, finish high school, don't have kids in your teens, and get married.
But the conventional wisdom is determined to ignore the evidence. It holds that family fragmentation — sorry, diverse family forms — is positive and here to stay. Peggy Drexler, the author of a new book, Raising Boys Without Men, says people who promote intact families are playing a "blame game" against single mothers. She thinks eating dinner regularly with your children is more important than the number or gender of adults in the home. And boys, according to Drexler, have an innate ability to become men, even without a man in the house. (But if boys can raise themselves, why should any father stick around?) The book carries blurbs from various establishment figures. Why not? Her ideas are ordinary ones among our elites.
For Further Reading:
Caitlin Flanagan, “Boys Will Be Boys,” Atlantic Monthly, November 2005. (Subscription required.)
Early, “Junk Science,”
Early, “Psychological Cheerleading,”
Raspberry, “Poor Women’s ‘Magical Outlook,’”
Sacks, “Are boys really better off without fathers?”
Hart, “As a single mom, I know marriage makes
the best setting for raising children,” Jewish
Albert Mohler Jr., “Raising Boys without Men—The New Feminist
Albert Mohler Jr., “Lesbians raising sons; got a problem with that?”
BreakPoint Commentary No. 040624, “Take Your Choice: Parents or Prisons?”
BreakPoint Commentary No. 040618, “Captain Obvious Strikes Again: We Do Need Dads.”
BreakPoint Commentary No. 050906, “Rebuilding the Foundations: Of Beauty and a Father’s Love.” (Free registration required.)
Christina Hoff Sommers, The War against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men (Simon and Schuster, 2000).
Leo, John. "All in the family." US News and World Report (October 3, 2005).
Reprinted by permission of John Leo.
John Leo is a contributing editor for U.S.News & World Report, and his column on the state of our culture appears weekly in 140 newspapers across the country. Leo has covered the social sciences and intellectual trends for Time magazine and the New York Times. He is also the author of two books: Two Steps Ahead of the Thought Police and a book of humor, How the Russians Invented Baseball and Other Essays of Enlightenment. He lives with his wife and daughter in Manhattan.
Copyright © 2005 US News and World Report
Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.