Monday, September 15, 2014

Do You Believe in Marriage?

As though you needed a new study to prove it … but marriage is good for children.

We know that children raised by two parents tend to be more successful — at school, in the future labor market, in their own marriages — than children raised by a single mom or dad. And from this fact, it might seem easy to conclude that marriage wields some outsized power over a child's life — that its absence creates unstable homes and chaotic families, while its presence nurtures them.

One hates to evoke Occam’s razor, but sometimes the simplest explanation is the truest.

Unfortunately, the scholars at the left-leaning Brookings Institute do not find the explanation satisfactory. They are looking for a public policy solution to America’s social problems and they do not want to admit that improved personal behavior is the only way to solve the problem of broken homes and out-of-wedlock births. 

The Post explains:

Making single parents get married, in other words, won't fundamentally change the other characteristics about them that really drive their children's success. The good news in this is that family income and parenting skills are more realistically addressed through public policy than marriage anyway.

Whoever had the idea that we need to make people to do anything, anyway? One wonders why the authors of the study do not propose to “nudge” people in the direction of marriage and nudge them away from divorce and out-of-wedlock births.

Have the behavioral economists, the ones who gave us Obamacare, set their minds to this problem?

Besides, how much nudging occurs when people read that a stable parental marriage is not really very important when it comes to bringing up children?

When marriage is systematically disparaged and demeaned, mightn’t that contribute to the problem, by nudging people toward reckless behaviors and socially dysfunctional living arrangements?

If we ask ask which citizens are most susceptible to these messages, it appears that their purveyors are less influenced than are those of lower educational and socioeconomic background.

It is probably true that more income is better than less, but how is government intervention going to accomplish this? Has the Obama administration implemented policies that have caused family income to increase for the average citizen?

And besides, how will a policy solution enhance parenting skills?

If the government is going to involve itself in parenting, what makes you think that this will not discourage parents from doing a better job. Isn’t it demoralizing when the government declares you to be incompetent?

The Brookings study raises the old correlation/causation problem.

People who are married do tend to earn more, but this might be because they work harder because they have a more developed sense of their responsibility toward family.

The study recognizes the point:

Today, better-educated, higher-income adults are much more likely to marry. That means their children benefit from the marriage, and the income, and the education of their parents. Howard and Reeves also point out that the same skills that make marriages work (like commitment and patience) also come handy for good parenting. And so perhaps it's not that children are better off when their parents marry — it's that the qualities that enable successful marriages also make good parents.

But, was it always true that poorer citizens had less functional marriages? Was it always true that these citizens always had broken homes or non-homes?

How many of the problems that exist in some communities derive from too much free love. When a single mother is bringing up four children, each of whom has a different father, none of whose fathers are present in the household… isn’t this a formula for anomie?

How can such children know where they belong or whether they belong? Children whose family relationships are chaotic, even anarchic are not going to have a very good chance in life.

One fails to see how the problem will be solved by absolving parents of all responsibility for the upbringing they are or not providing for their children?

We cannot make all underprivileged children wards of the state, can we?


Sam L. said...

"Unfortunately, the scholars at the left-leaning Brookings Institute do not find the explanation satisfactory. They are looking for a public policy solution to America’s social problems and they do not want to admit that improved personal behavior is the only way to solve the problem of broken homes and out-of-wedlock births."

Government is sooooooo much smarter than individual citizens. And we need (NEED) so much more Government.

Ares Olympus said...

This morning I listed to a radio program talking about corporal punishment, prompted by the Adrian Peterson charges of child abuse for beating his 4 year old with a branch.

They had two guests, one a scientist talking about behavioral experiments that show physical punishment doesn't cause the desired effect of teaching respect for others and self-discipline. The other was a lawyer who talked about the differences between the states, as well as the cultural and religious traditions that consider corporal punishment as a parental duty.

It certainly seemed complicated. Basically if a parent uses ANY physical punishment at all, they are liable for charges of abuse. Its almost like the police who now have to have cameras to document exactly what sorts of force they are applying, so it can be evaluated as excessive or not. Maybe that'll be the next use of Google glasses?

In regards to government, back in the 90s, I did attend a ECFE program ( with a single-mother friend and her 5 year old daughter, actually kids go to one area to play together while parents sit together like in school to learn parenting skills and discuss issues, including how to discipline kids, and I remember they emphasized times-outs as the prefered method. I wonder if how opinions have changed since?

If you asked the authoritarians, you might demand that all parents are able to pass basic skill tests before they are allowed to raise kids? How far do we want to take?

But back to corporal punishment, I admit I don't know if the data is in, and perhaps kids are different, and some kids really need physical signals when they're out of control, and perhaps time-outs are more emotionally abusive?

It would be interesting if an ECFE program could discuss these issues and allow parents different opinions. I think a no-brainer for instance, is if a parent is angry, the risks of unintentional abuse go way up. But whatever comes out, everyone should agree the impossibility of the state to interfere in private activities within a family without adding new traumas to all involved, including the social workers who have to make impossible choices on uncertain information.

Also today, news of an Arizona leader who resigned for some statement about sterilization for women on government assistance. Whatever his good intentions, it shows the PC police require unlimited freedom by the poor, while no responsibility.

So how does the culture war of the family end? I don't know.

n.n said...

We do already. The hand that feeds, that educates, that disciplines is the children's surrogate parent.

Anonymous said...

'The good new in this is that family income and parenting skills are more realistically addressed through public policy than marriage anyway.'

Translation: 'The good news in this is that we get to make more public policy!'

What did Democrat Senator Patrick Monynihan
say about black families in the 1970's?

Larger proportions of the US population sufferers from these public policy 'solutions' with every passing year.

Great Society,indeed.


Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares Olympus @September 15, 2014 at 4:38 PM:

"So how does the culture war of the family end? I don't know."

Good question. I can't be certain I know, either, but I do believe the war will get hotter if we continue along the path we've been following for the last 50 years.

The culture war of the family ends when people realize that the State is a provider of last resort, instead of this all-powerful, all-knowing, nameless, faceless presence in our lives that knows so much better than the citizen (in this case the parent) on how to conduct their lives. The "culture war of the family" is a conflict that -- like so many of our problems -- has been taken on at a national level, with vast experimentation and legalistic rigidity carried out by our elites. It is the expanse and depth of this crusade of parental instruction that is the problem, not the targeted enforcement of existing laws. Instead, we are doing everything we can to make parenting harder with regulation and the idea that free speech means "anything goes," while outlawing bake sales. Sorry to be cynical on such an important topic, but follow the money.

Children are not property, so they're not possessions. Let's stop treating them like they are. Certainly there are some people who are not fit to be parents, and horribly abuse their children. This is horrible, tragic. Such people need to be prosecuted, and their children removed. But the foster system is no walk in the park, either. There are no great choices.

The best place for a child is with their parents, and no parent is perfect. It's time we woke up and realized this. "Zero tolerance" means zero thought. The government doesn't know how to raise children. And the scientist and the lawyer guests on the radio doesn't know the best way, either. The problem in this country is we have a one-size-fits-all, centrally planned solution for every problem, and the experts are feeding us a mishmash of looney, self-evident or stupid ideas on how to do something that's been done for thousands and thousands of years. The government is not a person, and the law is an ass. Only people can love, and law is a remedy... no the solution.

The most juvenile idea out there is "There's someone out there who can love me the way I want and need to be loved." This is a lie. And we are applying that lie to every human circumstance, to great consternation and gnashing of teeth. I am not trying to diminish the real problem of child abuse... some children are horrifically abused by their parents. But I take the Potter Stewart approach: "I know it when I see it," and the vast majority of American parents are running around scared because the idea that a spanking or a wallop is a psychologically winding and physically brutal event that will ruin the child forever and ever... and then a long time. We know when a parent has lost their marbles and is abusing a child. Physically disciplining a child for the sake of sanity in the homestead is not barbaric behavior. When all efforts are dropped to maintain order, we'll just have chaos. Who supervises the "experts?" We are moving toward a situation where the people with all the responsibility have diminishing authority.

Parenthood doesn't require a license, and God help us all when it does. I can't wait to see that government application.

To n.n.'s point, we have enabled an entire generation of parent spectators who like the idea of having children but don't want to take care of them or, worse, fully outsource that care. I assert such parents are much more prevalent in the upper classes of our society than they are in the remainder. Our elites tell us how to live, and then carry on with their own personal and professional aggrandizement, with their possession children in tow for display.