Monday, March 5, 2012

Harsh realities

As if having a couple of morally-challenged people sling very public mud at each other these last few days hasn't been enough, now a state senator in Wisconsin wants a bill to say that single parenting is a contributing factor in child abuse:
A Wisconsin lawmaker has proposed legislation that would require the state to officially declare single parenting as child abuse.Republican Senator Glenn Grothman presented Senate Bill 507 which would require the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to emphasize that non-marital parenthood is a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.The bill would also require educational and public awareness campaigns to emphasize that not being married is abusive and neglectful of children, and to underscore "the role of fathers in the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect."
Rick Ungar, blogging at Forbes, has this to say:

Apparently, no longer content with suggesting that single parents (most of whom were not always single) are only out to bilk the government when deciding to have children, Grothman has decided that these same evil doers are more responsible for child abuse and child neglect than, say, alcoholics, people with mental health issues, married couples who engage in domestic violence, unemployment and the other causes cited as material contributors to child abuse.

I say that Grothman believes single-parenthood to be more responsible because I don’t see him proposing that these other causes be specifically included in his legislation.

To be fair, data reveals that there are more incidents of child abuse in households with only one parent than in households with two parents. But the data does not indicate that this factor is somehow more responsible for child abuse than the other factors listed above so, again, why single this factor out to include in the state’s statutes and not the others? [Emphasis added--E.M.]

You see, even if it's true that single parenthood is a contributing factor to bad outcomes for children, including a greater risk for child abuse (and child sexual abuse, something I've pointed out here before), it's not quite-quite to say so, especially in a government document.

More and more I'm becoming convinced that we really do have a national religion of Sex Without Consequences. That's the only reason I can think of to keep quiet about the fact that in general children do better when they are being raised by a mom and a dad who are in a stable marriage to each other--because it conflicts with the national religion's core belief, which is that people have the right to have sex with any consenting partner, regardless of the consequences.

Sure, there are single parents who are in the situation through no fault of their own: the death of a spouse, a divorce that only one partner wanted, even spousal abandonment. But as the number of never-married parents and children born out of wedlock continues to rise, we may get to the point where we have to face the fact that children in these situations do not do as well as their counterparts in stable families with a mother and a father who are married to each other; or, in the name of political correctness, we can continue to ignore the unpleasant and harsh realities, and blame everything but the cultural breakdown and the decline of marriage for the negative results that impact children.

And part of ignoring the harsh reality is continuing to label as "harsh" the people who point out the reality, something the culture warriors on the left are getting increasingly good at doing.

23 comments:

Patrick said...

Why don't we outlaw childrearing except by those that are (A) straight, (B) married, (C) white, (D) college graduates and (E) with a minimum net income?

Red Cardigan said...

Because there's no way for such a law to be equitable.

Instead, how about we encourage people who make children to do so after marriage and to take responsibility for them, instead of pretending that sex is a recreational activity done solely for pleasure and that children are mere contraceptive accidents?

Anonymous said...

I have seen nasty little brats come from religious mother&father families and sweet angels come from mother&mother families. I have see children from single parent homes become doctors in physics and I have see drug addicts from perfectly normal families. It is not about who is in the family, it is about how the child is raised.

Someday I hope people will stop making excuses and start raising children properly.

ObservingTheTruth

Red Cardigan said...

Oh, and by "such a law," I meant a law requiring people to be married to raise children. Clearly there's no reason to bar people based on race, income level, or education level other than ugly prejudice. Some of the best parents in the world may be found in third-world countries where the parents are quite poor, non-white, and have not even completed high school--but they ARE married. It makes a difference.

JP Stone said...

"I have seen nasty little brats come from religious mother&father families and sweet angels come from mother&mother families. I have see children from single parent homes become doctors in physics and I have see drug addicts from perfectly normal families. It is not about who is in the family, it is about how the child is raised."

this is like saying "i've known an alcoholic who was really a sweet guy at heart, and a non-drinker who was a complete jerk." it may be true on some level but it doesn't MEAN anything in the bigger picture.

here's a shocker: how the child is raised has a huge connection to who is in the family. who knew???

Siarlys Jenkins said...

It is hard to follow this post Erin. At the beginning, I thought you were knocking Grothman for rhetorical grandstanding that could open the door to all kinds of abuse and doesn't really help. At the end, I could tell you were caustically critiquing those who deny that marriage promotes more responsible and better outcomes in raising children.

I agree on both points. But I didn't quite follow the transition, so I'm not even sure whether I am agreeing with what you meant or what I thought you said or a bit of both, or neither.

I have a good deal of personal familiarity with single-parent households (none of the children being my offspring), and a variety of outcomes. It is less than ideal. Some children pull through well, but not without paying prices along the way.

The kind of legislation offered by Grothman (a notorious curmudgeon who supports torture and other things the Catholic Church condemns), might perhaps be used to take children away wholesale from single mothers, or replace their own perhaps sound judgement about childrearing, putting them in the hands of social workers who have no better track record. It wouldn't have any other conceivable practical impact.

Patrick said...

But Red, don't white children fare better than black children in the USA? Don't the children of college educated children fare better than the children of the uneducated in the USA? Don't children of means fare better than children raised in poverty in the USA? Don't the children of married parents fare better than children of single mothers in the USA? Its not about ugly prejudice, its what circumstances are best for a child. Why stop the question at "married vs single"?

Red Cardigan said...

Patrick, it's not that simple:

1. 72% of black children are born out of wedlock.

2. Single parents are much less likely to attend college or complete a four-year degree. There has been a slight increase in single moms attending college, but graduation rates still fall far short of those of students who aren't single parents.

3. Single parent families are much more likely to be poor than two-parent families. Single mothers with dependent children have a higher poverty rate than any other group. Statistics from 2009 showed that only 8.3% of married couples with children were poor, 23.7 and 38.5 of single parent (male) and single parent (female) households were poor.

The bottom line: living in a single-parent family increases your risk of being poor, having under-educated parents and not becoming college-educated yourself. And given the high rate of single parenting in the African-American community it's much more likely that the single parenthood, not merely race, is the underlying cause of the poorer outcomes.

Would we solve *everything* by encouraging married parenthood? No. But it would be a huge leap in the right direction, especially when compared to our culture's present view that Sex Without Consequences is everyone's right and that if a disproportionate number of children end up being raised in single-parent households, that's just tough.

Patrick said...

Vis-a-vis other children, poor children suffer from: poor academic achievement, higher school dropout rate (The National Center for Education Statistics reports that in 2008, the dropout rate of students living in low-income families was about four and one-half times greater than the rate of children from higher-income families), higher incidents of abuse and neglect, more behavioral and socioemotional problems, more physical health problems, and developmental delays.

Child poverty costs an estimated $500 billion a year to the U.S. economy; reduces productivity and economic output by 1.3 percent of GDP; raises crime and increases health expenditure (Holzer et al., 2008).

Poor children are increased risks for behavioral and emotional problems, aggression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct disorder, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, greater risk of injury and mortality and entry into the juvenile justice system.

Poor children are at increased risk for low birth weight births, poor nutrition, (hunger/obesity), chronic asthma, anemia, and pneumonia, and poomore likely to engage in risky behaviors such as smoking and engaging in early sexual activity.

Accordingly, it makes more sense to bar poor people from rearing children than to bar single people.

Red Cardigan said...

You're being pretty obtuse here, Patrick. Only 8.3% of married couples with dependent children were at or below the poverty level in 2009. So barring that 8.3% from raising children (how, by confiscating their kids?) would hardly make a dent in child poverty--unless you're going to give in and admit that single-parent families do, in fact, have poorer outcomes INCLUDING higher poverty levels.

Did you read my post at all?

Red Cardigan said...

By the way, it's hardly rocket science to figure out why two-parent families are comparatively richer than one-parent families. Some of them are richer because they combine two incomes; others, because they live on one income but don't have to pay for the child care etc. that the stay-at-home parent provides. In either case the one-parent family is at a serious disadvantage, because they must live on one income and provide child care etc. And it doesn't help that "deadbeat" parents often don't pay their share back into the one-parent family.

Patrick Praying said...

Why do you so quickly get nasty with snarks like "did you read my post at all?" It doesn't serve you. And you do it far too often. Be polite.

Perhaps what you are inartfully trying to say is that is that there are overlapping circles on the grand chart of "Which Kids Fare Worst". Once circle is poor kids. One circle is black kids. Another circle is children from single family households. Another is children who come from families with substance abuse problems. Another circle is the children of the uneducated. There are likely many more circles. Some overlap.

I think what I'm hearing from you is that one of those circles should be addressed as our primary concern.

Red Cardigan said...

It wasn't a snark, Patrick. I think that you're ignoring my point, which is that all the "overlapping" factors you're mentioning tend to overlap the "not-married/never married parents" factor, and that, in fact, if you look at social science data the "not-married/never married parents" factor has always contributed to all the other factors and the poor outcomes.

Look, I get that liberals would like to believe that children raised by mommy and mommy's current paramour of either gender are just as happy and well-adjusted and likely to achieve as children raised by their own married biological parents. I also get *why* you want to believe this--because our nation has invested so heavily in the Sexual Revolution that it would be a bummer if it turned out that the Revolution was bad for kids. But statistically, the truth is that even rich white kids with college-educated moms don't do as well when dad's not in the picture as their counterparts from intact families. So you can pretend all you want that it's only poverty, racial discrimination, substance abuse, mental health issues etc. that cause the problems, but that's not a very scientific viewpoint.

Patrick Praying said...

I surrender:

Poor black children wouldn't be poor black children if only their parents would get married.

Red Cardigan said...

Okay, now who's being snarky? :)

But let's face it: African-American children whose parents are married really will do better. Even among poor African-American families, children whose parents stayed married had a much greater chance of climbing out of poverty than children whose parents did not stay married or were not married. So, in a sense, poor black children really can escape poverty more easily if their parents are married and stay that way!

Siarlys Jenkins said...

There is no system of taking children wholesale away from their parents for X reason that is either workable or morally sustainable. One of the practical obstacles is, do we have something better for the children? Often, the foster care system has worse outcomes.

For better or for worse, in the absence of specific documented hazards to child safety, they are going to be raised by one or both parents. We need to be conservative about what constitutes a hazard too. I've read child welfare laws that had to tack on an exception to various requirements "unless caused by lack of income." You know, like trying to legislate what level of nutrition each child should have -- then realizing that some parents can't afford it, and are you going to take their kids away because they don't make enough income to be good parents?

Then there are the social workers who say "You're not getting your children back until you can provide each of them their own room." When I was growing up, it was normal that there were three bedrooms in the home: one for the parents, one for 1-5 girls, one for 1-5 boys. Each child their own room???

Children are better off if they are supported and raised by both parents. So are their mothers. So are their fathers, although fathers may not realize it at first. That's not going to happen because Glenn Grothman waves his legislative wand and declares single parenting to be abusive.

JP Stone said...

why should anyone be polite to typical strawman snark designed to bait people?

and there are plenty of people -- i believe there was a real debate from blacks about the potential cultural implications of black kids being adopted by white parents, and yes this was way post-civil rights era -- who would definitely concede that race, culture, income, age, whatever all play a role in raising kids, pro or con. whatever conclusions are drawn i don't think it's productive to wave a magic wand and chant "free to be you and me" just cuz it's ideologically convenient.

eulogos said...

Red, I would agree with encouraging married parenthood, although I am not quite clear on how to do that. I can't agree with forbidding single parenthood. A woman gets pregnant; we don't want her to abort. She carries the baby, gives birth, and the baby is snatched from her arms? I am not that heartless, and I really don't think you are either.

How about a government supplement to a MAN's paycheck if he is married, an an additional supplement for each child he supports in a married relationship? This would be the kind of supplement that would mean little to an upper class family, but considerable to those earning at lower levels.

I bet the feminists would scream about that one! But it might well promote marriage among those most in need of it. It might serve to make life with the father of the child a better economic prospect than welfare.

Almost anything we could do to make single parenthood less attractive would harm those women struggling to be good parents as a single person, and their children, and it is hard to want to do that.

Perhaps if we called our little extra sum of money a "responsible fatherhood" premium, we could keep the feminists from screaming?
Susan

eulogos said...

Red, I would agree with encouraging married parenthood, although I am not quite clear on how to do that. I can't agree with forbidding single parenthood. A woman gets pregnant; we don't want her to abort. She carries the baby, gives birth, and the baby is snatched from her arms? I am not that heartless, and I really don't think you are either.

How about a government supplement to a MAN's paycheck if he is married, an an additional supplement for each child he supports in a married relationship? This would be the kind of supplement that would mean little to an upper class family, but considerable to those earning at lower levels.

I bet the feminists would scream about that one! But it might well promote marriage among those most in need of it. It might serve to make life with the father of the child a better economic prospect than welfare.

Almost anything we could do to make single parenthood less attractive would harm those women struggling to be good parents as a single person, and their children, and it is hard to want to do that.

Perhaps if we called our little extra sum of money a "responsible fatherhood" premium, we could keep the feminists from screaming?
Susan

Red Cardigan said...

Oh, gosh, Susan, no--we can encourage married parenthood in lots of ways without forcing single mothers to give up their children! And I like your idea of a "responsible fatherhood" premium...

Anonymous said...

I can see where eulogos' idea would go wrong very quickly. There would be people having as many children as they can produce just for the money because it beats being on food-stamps or something.

False identities for extra marriages. 12 children in a family strictly for money.

No. A government bribe for couples to get married and have children would not work.

ObservingTheTruth

Siarlys Jenkins said...

How about a government supplement to a MAN's paycheck if he is married, an an additional supplement for each child he supports in a married relationship?

Well, that was the original idea to the income tax status "married filing jointly" with additional deductions for dependents. It is a bit less like that, since single people screamed that the tax code was unfair to them. This is also why I am unsympathetic to same-sex couples bemoaning that they are denied the "benefits" of marriage.

L. said...

"How about a government supplement to a MAN's paycheck if he is married, an an additional supplement for each child he supports in a married relationship?"

Yes, you're correct. The feminists would scream. Just reading that made my eyeballs hurt.

That plan would do little to change mindsets about marriage, but I bet it would encourage more of the equivalent of "green card marriages" (such as my own - I "married" solely to get a visa to stay in my partner's country) in which a couple ties the knot just to collect that check. Is that the kind of marriages you wish to promote?

You cannot legislate the true commitment that partners make to each other. Either it is there, in which case "marriage" is a meaningless piece of paper -- or it is not.