LeRoy Collins Commentary 94

Commentary #94
8 October 2007

Rebuild the American family...starting with Mom & Dad

Attached is an essay with statistical claims which are quite alarming for the American culture. On the campaign trail, a candidate quickly finds there are early pressures to declare whether he/she is “pro-choice” or “pro-life”, i.e. …one or the other. I discovered most Democrats were pro-choice and most Republicans were pro-life. I decided I was NEITHER all the time, but I quickly found that in this era of compact sound bites, any explanation consuming over 45 seconds became a communication problem no matter what you were trying to say. A major radio personality in Central Florida chided me for such a wimpy viewpoint during a syndicated interview. I did not take the bait. Let me try out my answer on you:

My advice to any young person is always “pro-life”, because I believe life comes from God, and new lives need to be nurtured in the crucible of the traditional family where parents accept the responsibility of guidance for their children until they are 18 years old……at a minimum. But in the real world it is not that simple, our lofty ideals of morality notwithstanding.

For various reasons which the essayist chronicles, the prevailing standards of today have become looser and more irresponsible. As a result the exceptions of yore are becoming more prevalent and even normal for today. Thus there are more and more young women becoming pregnant in their early teens. Those miscalculations are causing them to be frightened, embarrassed, and anxious to rid themselves of this strange thing growing inside their bodies. Current law often allows them to abort their fetus before their acquaintances know, which often seems like their best solution, the sanctity of life notwithstanding.

The personal complications of the moment often propel such young women to a timely solution whatever it is, and a full term pregnancy does not typically compete on their list of options for the moment. Many will choose an abortion, because it is fast and hopefully final…..for the moment. Many will sense remorse for such a hasty conclusion for the remainder of their lives. In extreme cases, some will take their own lives. Whatever the law is at the time, many will abort largely because they are unprepared to deal will the responsibilities required to raise a child when they are so young.

The pro-lifers will remind us the demand for babies to adopt is huge, and they are right. But, the FACT is, so many of these prospective mothers will choose adoption anyhow, because they want to return to the status quo as soon as possible. While I regret the choice of abortion, I would rather tolerate that than placing these young women in jail charged with murder. That is likely to ruin their lives forever, and society will not be well-served either.

While we can remedy some of these scenarios through a protracted effort at social education through the schools, churches, civic organizations, and various levels of government, there will continue to be many young women who must struggle with unwanted pregnancies. So the next time you hear this issue debated, let me suggest neither of the two extremes in this sensitive matter have the right answer.
/s/ LeRoy Collins, Jr

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Rebuild the American family, starting with mom and dad
Mort Zuckerman

Sunday, October 7th 2007

You will hear a lot about the American family in the election campaign. For most of us, that calls up an image of a man and wife and two or three children.

Forget it. Predominant as the social pattern for several hundred years, that American family has lost its place. Households of unmarried couples and households without children outnumber "American family" households. And only about 20% of families fit into the traditional structure with father as the only breadwinner.

Here is what has been happening: In the 1950s, 80% of adults were married; today, roughly 50% are. Why? Partly because people are delaying marriage. Second, divorce rates have more than doubled since the 1960s as marriage evolved from a sacrament to a contract.. Third, millions more cohabit before marriage. Fourth, births to unmarried mothers, white and black, have risen from 5% in 1960 to about 35% today.

So the new American family is a household with fewer children, with both parents working, and with mothers giving birth to their children at an ever older age, having fewer children, and spacing them further apart.

This is not good news. Twice as many married people indicate they are very happy as compared with those who aren't married. But it is the children who are most affected. The stable family of two biological parents - surprise, surprise! - turns out to be the ideal vessel for molding character, for nurturing, for inculcating values, and for planning for a child's future. Marriage, or the lack of it, is the best single predictor of poverty, greater even than race or unemployment.

The result is a serious new divide in our society between the children of poorer, less educated, single parents and those of richer, better educated, and married parents. The married parents typically earn more than $75,000; in only 20% of cases do married parents with children earn less than $15,000.

Children in mother-only families are more likely than those with two parents to be suspended from school, to have emotional problems, to become delinquent, to suffer from abuse, to take drugs, and to perform poorly on virtually every measure.

The culture has also changed. Once, about 40% thought that a wife should help her husband's career rather than have one of her own. Now, 81% think she should have her own career, and 70% think that both husband and wife should earn money.

Parental time with children has dropped from about 30 hours a week to around 17 - yet 70% believe that children are not affected negatively by having a working mother unless they are under school age.

So a big question for everyone is how to reform Social Security and welfare so as to nourish marriage and raise the proportion of children who grow up in two-parent families. We should worry about a welfare system that pays unmarried mothers enough to have their own apartments and has led some to prefer babies to husbands. Research indicates that a 10% growth in welfare benefits increases by 12% the chances that a poor young woman will have a baby out of wedlock before the age of 22. This has been true for both whites and blacks.

We must find ways to educate people to understand that it is a good idea to be married before having children. Federal aid should give incentives for couples to form and sustain healthy marriages, not encouragement for single parenthood and nonmarital birth. Social service benefits that phase out fairly quickly after marriage, for example, can actually create a marriage penalty. Nor should the tax code penalize couples who marry.

This dramatic shift from traditional to contemporary family structures and values is unlikely to change. But the bulk of the nation's most intractable social problems would benefit from tempering that trend by nurturing the American family. Public policy should not contribute to an a la carte menu of sex, love and childbearing. It should emphasize the benefits for all from the package deal of marriage.

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/s/ LeRoy Collins, Jr.
www.leroycollins.org


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