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Fatherhood Matters

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Ignoring the data again ...

After the recent cover story in Time about the benefits of marriage for children and society, some have decided to attack the author and the idea that marriage is an institution worth preserving and encouraging.

This piece in The Nation by Katha Pollitt reads like a lot of sarcastic noise. While it is successful at being snarky, it, like most articles of its kind, ignores decades of social science research that show that marriage is best for children. The article ignores the data on the benefits of marriage and the negative effects of divorce and out-of-wedlock birth so that it does not have to confront, head on, a very simple idea - children do best when their parents get and stay married. If this is not the case, someone needs to produce a body of research that shows otherwise - I have not seen it yet.

This article, predictably, offers no data of its own, just meaningless comparisons to other countries (where, by the way, cohabitation is a completely different beast than it is here in the U.S.).

Pollitt also lists several other solutions to improving child well being that she says are more attainable than improving marriages or reducing divorces. You have to see the list for yourself, but the items are far from 'no-brainers' that could be easily implemented. For example, she says that we can achieve "Neighborhoods safe enough for kids to play outdoors and air clean enough so they don't get asthma." Needless to say, we have been trying to create safe neighborhoods and clean air for decades, to no avail (ironically, the cause of much neighborhood violence is fatherless boys acting out).

Would Pollitt give up as easily on the idea of creating safe neighborhoods as she does on strengthening marriage because it is "hard to do"?

Rethinking Responsibility

Our friends at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy yesterday released a wonderful compilation of mini-essays on the definition and shape of personal responsibility vis-a-vis unplanned pregnancy. "Rethinking Responsibility: Reflections on Sex and Accountability" surveyed 29 leaders for their thoughts on this critical issue.

NFI's own Roland Warren contributed an essay on the resounding benefits of putting a ring on it.

We couldn't agree more.

Excellent TIME magazine cover story: Why Marriage Matters, by Caitlin Flanagan:

Few things hamper a child as much as not having a father at home. "As a feminist, I didn't want to believe it," says Maria Kefalas, a sociologist who studies marriage and family issues and co-authored a seminal book on low-income mothers called Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage.

"Women always tell me, 'I can be a mother and a father to a child,' but it's not true." Growing up without a father has a deep psychological effect on a child. "The mom may not need that man," Kefalas says, "but her children still do."

What is the deal with cohabitation, really?

The picture painted in the first ¾ of a May 25 Time article on cohabitation does not match the reality on the ground that is presented in the last ¼ of the article. I know Time is trying to write juicy news, but it seems, based on the facts presented towards the end (mainly, that after 5 years, cohabiting couples are no more, due to either marriage or breaking up), that Time is trying to make the exception look like the rule.

The rule is that couples who live together eventually break up (don’t commit) or get married (commit). The exception is a cohabiting couple staying together for the long term and who don’t see marriage as a vehicle to express commitment; there are simply very few couples like this.

Much ado about nothing? It looks like Time’s story, when you unpack it, is not really much of a story … And all of this says nothing of child well-being … Since cohabiting couples do not last very long, the children they produce eventually end up living in father-absent homes, which we know are, on average,
not great for kids.

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