Children Feel Rejected
by Patrick F. Fagan, The Washington Times, May 23, 2004
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The breakdown in
marriage over the last 50 years carries a cost: America has
evolved from being a culture of belonging to being a culture of
rejection, and its children are paying the price.
National survey data repeatedly show the most positive outcomes
are in those families where the parents have always belonged to
each other and to their children: the intact married family.
These families are less likely to live in poverty, less likely
to depend on welfare and less likely to grapple with addictions
to drugs and alcohol, among other problems.
Take yearly income. The federal government's 2001 Survey of
Consumer Finances shows the annual salary for a never-divorced,
intact family is $54,000. (The step-family with parents on their
second marriage trails close behind at $50,000). But for a
family that's divorced, that figure is cut by more than half:
$23,000. And for those who have never married, it's cut by more
than half again: $9,400.
A host of other social indicators also underscore the importance
of the intact married family. Grade point average is one: The
federal government's National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent
Health shows that for teenagers in a married family, it's 2.98
(out of a possible 4.0); for those in divorced families, it's
2.64. Children in single-parent homes are more than 4 times
likelier than those in married families to be expelled from
school. And those in nonmarital homes are almost twice as likely
to report being depressed.
It's not just the families who suffer. Government budgets grow
when marriages fail or when parents reject each other. Picking
up the pieces becomes the work not only of the fragmented family
but all the taxpayers and the whole society.
Worse, the number of victims has skyrocketed. For every 100
children born in 1950, 12 became part of a broken family -- four
were born out of wedlock and eight saw their parents divorce. By
2000, there was a fivefold increase: For every 100 children
born, 60 became part a broken family -- 33 born out of wedlock
and 27 the product of divorce.
Mind you, no responsible researcher would stipulate all children
who come from married families have no problems or that those
from single-parent homes are guaranteed to fail; we're talking
about trends here. After all, rejection and indifference do the
damage, and that can happen in the intact family, too.
Still, if, in a well-intentioned effort to spare the feelings of
those around us, we ignore these trends, we do so at our peril.
The data show when fathers and mothers belong to each other in
marriage, their children thrive -- and the more they belong to
each other, the better off their children are. But when parents
are indifferent or walk away from or reject each other, their
children don't thrive as much -- and many wilt a lot.
Society also suffers with more gangs, more assaults, more
violence against women and children, more sexual abuse of women
and children, and much bigger bills for jails, increased need
for health care, supplemental education, addiction programs,
foster care, homelessness programs and on and on.
these social program budgets is directly linked to the breakdown
Changing this will require a huge amount of work. We need to set
about restoring conditions that will again grow a culture of
belonging, with all the ingredients that go into such a culture:
courtship, marriage, worship and communities of families that
form neighborhoods that are nice places to come home to:
neighborhoods in which romance, courtship and marriage are
normal and frequent.
The data also show regular church attendance makes a difference.
That shouldn't surprise us: George Washington in his Farewell
Speech to the Nation noted that Americans need to be a people of
worship if this experiment in freedom is to work. There is much
in the scientific literature that points toward religious
practice as a great preserver and fosterer of marriage and
The challenge before this great nation's leaders is to bring
America back to a culture of belonging rather than a culture of
rejection; to being a country where people and families belong
to each other and especially fathers belong first to the mothers
of their children and mothers belong first to the fathers.
Parents belonging to each other. That's what children need more
than anything else this nation can give them.
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