Red vs. Blue Families

Tuesday, May 11, AD 2010

It’s fairly common for advocates of more liberal social policies to point out that “red states” tend to have higher rates of divorce, teen pregnancy, etc than “blue states”. This is taken to suggest that, however much conservatives may go on about “family values”, it is actually more liberal social values which are best for families. Ross Douthat does a good job of addressing this mentality in his column from last Sunday, in which he takes a closer look at some of these “family values” statistics.

Today, couples with college and (especially) graduate degrees tend to cohabit early and marry late, delaying childbirth and raising smaller families than their parents, while enjoying low divorce rates and bearing relatively few children out of wedlock.

For the rest of the country, this comfortable equilibrium remains out of reach. In the underclass (black, white and Hispanic alike), intact families are now an endangered species. For middle America, the ideal of the two-parent family endures, but the reality is much more chaotic: early marriages coexist with frequent divorces, and the out-of-wedlock birth rate keeps inching upward.

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20 Responses to Red vs. Blue Families

  • There are more problems with this book that I’ll outline in about a week. I have the post 3/4’s written but have to run some regressions and what not. I imagine you and your fellow travelers will largely be in agreement with me.

  • You read Douthat’s piece and came away with a completely different impression of it than I did. Of course, in my blog post on the subject, I did acknowledge that I may have been reading Douthat’s piece through my Ross-colored glasses, which probably tends to somewhat negatively distort anything written by the guy.

    I probably could have just let this one go, but for his gratuitous swipe at Bristol Palin.

  • I probably could have just let this one go, but for his gratuitous swipe at Bristol Palin.

    I thought it was pretty obvious from the context that he was characterizing the authors of the book as the kind of people who would make such a comment rather than taking a swipe at her himself. Judge for yourself:

    This is one of the themes of “Red Families v. Blue Families,” a provocative new book by two law professors, Naomi Cahn and June Carbone. The authors depict a culturally conservative “red America” that’s stuck trying to sustain an outdated social model. By insisting (unrealistically) on chastity before marriage, Cahn and Carbone argue, social conservatives guarantee that their children will get pregnant early and often (see Palin, Bristol), leading to teen childbirth, shotgun marriages and high divorce rates.

    I could be wrong, but it never occurred to me to read it otherwise. He is laying out their argument in that paragraph; and the rest of the editorial is critical of that simplistic portrayal of Red America, and (implicitly) the kind of people who would cite Bristol Palin as the exemplar of backwards redstate America. Notice, the conclusion of the piece:

    By comparison, the “red family” model can look dysfunctional — an uneasy mix of rigor and permissiveness, whose ideals don’t always match up with the facts of contemporary life. But it reflects something else as well: an attempt, however compromised, to navigate post-sexual revolution America without relying on abortion.

    Translation: Red State America does not take abortion as an easy way out; this decision has consequences that aren’t always pretty, but it also reflects a lived moral conviction.

  • MZ,

    Sounds interesting. I’ll keep an eye out for it. (In the mean time, I’ll try to figure out if I should be flattered or perplexed at having “fellow travelers”.)

    Jay,

    Yeah, I didn’t get that he was rolling over to the book’s thesis at all, but rather refuting it. But while I want to argue with anything Rod Dreher says, Ross Douthat doesn’t fall in that camp for me.

  • Yeah, I didn’t get that he was rolling over to the book’s thesis at all, but rather refuting it.

    I’m with Jay on this one – it sounded like it was Ross himself backing the authors’s thesis.

    There is an easy way out of this morass, of course. Douthat could have, at some point, made an affirmative denunciation of the thesis and spelled out why the authors were mistaken. Instead we get a subtle jab that leaves the reader perplexed as to what exactly Douthat’s personal point of view is.

  • It was pretty clear as written, Paul; certainly Darwin and most of the commenters at the New York Times picked it up quickly enough. Douthat’s point is that attitudes toward abortion – not abstinence education or an emphasis on marriage or the simple stupidity of people in Red America – account for most of the differences we see in out-of-wedlock birth, early marriage (and accompanying divorce), etc.

    The contemporary liberal narrative downplays this fact. Abortion is becoming increasingly unpopular, so liberals want to argue that increased access to contraceptives will reduce the need for abortion, and that it is cultural conservatism that, in effect, increases the abortion rate. Douthat just points out this argument doesn’t square with the facts; teen pregnancy is lower in blue states primarily because abortion is more prevalent. That’s why Darwin and Chris Burgwald flagged the article; it refutes a central part of the contemporary liberal diagnosis of red state America – the myth of social conservatism increasing the abortion rate.

  • Jay:

    I’m normally a Douthat fan, but I did think this article was weirdly written for some reason so while I noted as Darwin did that he ultimately refuted the thesis, that I didn’t feel great about him doing so. Not sure why.

  • The whole concept of the book is wrong-headed I think in its analysis of Red and Blue states. There are really very few states that fit in that category. For example I live in Blue Illinois. Outside of Chicago and some of the suburbs, most of Illinois has life conducted along the lines of a Red State by the lights of the book. The reverse is true of Red States, Texas for example, with large urban enclaves. This mixed quality of the states would have to be taken into consideration when looking at statistics regarding marriage and divorce. Additionally, I think we are at the beginning of a political era where the Red and Blue divisions may soon seem like relics as much as the divisions between the Whigs and the Jacksonian Democrats do today. The political landscape is changing rapidly, as I think Illinois will demonstrate in the fall.

  • “teen pregnancy is lower in blue states because abortion is more prevalent”

    Well, actually it would be teen BIRTH rates that would be lower in those states. I have seen lists of nations with the lowest teen pregnancy rates and the lowest teen birth rates side by side, and they are NOT identical, so statisticians do have a way to compile those statistics separately. (Switzerland, for example, is in the bottom five nations as far as teen birth rate, but does not have the same ranking for teen pregnancy rate.)

    If Douthat’s theory is true, blue states would have the same or possibly even higher teen PREGNANCY rates, but lower teen birth rates, the difference being due primarily to abortion.

    The only other possible cause for such a disparity would be a high rate of miscarriage or stillbirth due to poverty or poor medical care; that might be a factor in some Third World countries but probably not so much in the U.S., even in areas of extreme urban decay.

  • Also, figures in some of the red states may be considerably skewed by the impact of (illegal) immigration.

  • There is an easy way out of this morass, of course. Douthat could have, at some point, made an affirmative denunciation of the thesis and spelled out why the authors were mistaken.

    There is little indication from his writing that Ross Douthat has the background to have much critical engagement with a piece of quantitative social research, so he would be advised to tread rather carefully in commenting on that. It’s regrettably been years, but I have done this sort of work on this sort of topic and (judging from the literature I reviewed and my own analyses) you generally get ambiguous results.

    Of course, the book could be flawed in all kinds of ways that a layman could spot quite readily. Awful lot of groupthink in academe.

    But while I want to argue with anything Rod Dreher says,

    The bulk of what Brother Dreher has to say is he is upset. No point to arguing with that.

  • Well, actually it would be teen BIRTH rates

    Yeah, mistyped.

    The bulk of what Brother Dreher has to say is he is upset. No point to arguing with that.

    Heh. A little harsh, but there’s a lot of truth there.

  • If Douthat’s theory is true, blue states would have the same or possibly even higher teen PREGNANCY rates, but lower teen birth rates, the difference being due primarily to abortion.

    While the terms are being used a bit interchangeably in the comments here, Douthat does successfully make the distinction, and the data he links to does indeed bear this out. For instance:

    Alabama has a pregnancy rate for 15-19 year olds of 73 out of every 1000 women. Connecticut has a rate of 57. For in Alabama only 20% of those pregnancies end in abortion, while in Connecticut 53% do. West Virginia has a teen pregnancy rate of 62, which is the same a Rhode Island’s rate of 62 — but in West Virginia only 17% of those pregnancies end in abortion while in Rhode Island 42% do.

  • Regardless of whether Douthat was using her as an example of the kind of people the authors were talking about, Bristol Palin should not have been brought up at all.

  • The bigger point might be the supposed connection between morality and whether one is red or blue. As much as either side tries to convince that it is more moral than the other, neither the public examples, nor the statistics are there.

    If you wanted to analyze the big picture on abortion or divorce, you’d have to draw in economics, religion, and education, among other factors. They used to say the moral majority is neither. It’s still true.

  • Regardless of whether Douthat was using her as an example of the kind of people the authors were talking about

    It’s not that she typifies the type of people the authors were writing about (although she does in some respects). It’s that she is a common example cited by people like the authors. Douthat is laying out the lefty worldview; and Bristol and Sarah Palin references are common. Is that unfair to Bristol? Sure. But I don’t think re-stating the blue state critique of red-state America in its own terms makes Douthat morally reprehensible.

  • Todd,

    I’m not clear that moral conservatives necessarily claim to be more moral than social progressives, they just claim that they continue to espouse morality while their opponents consider it “repressed” or “outdated”.

    Of course, the other point here is that claimed moral beliefs are certainly not the only difference between the populations of “red” and “blue” states. In this sense, although it’s an oft used distinction, trying to make these distinctions is overly broad.

    As I’m sure you’d agree “red” and “blue” (there’s a certain late-Roman quality to how attached we are to these color designations) in the sense of left-politics/right-politics can contain a whole host of contradictory groups within one label. I would imagine that you share much more in moral/cultural outlook with those in the Moral Majority (however distasteful you may find their politics) than you do with the sort of folks who write long self-examining essays about how monogamous marriage doesn’t make sense in the modern world for The Atlantic, even if you might share some of the same favorite politicians.

    Data that I have seen which is more explicitly broken down by actual stated moral beliefs does show that, while as should come as no surprise to anyone those who espouse traditional moral beliefs are far from perfect in their practice of them, people who claim to believe in traditional morality, attend some sort of religious services regularly, etc. do tend to have fewer sexual partners, “wait” longer as teenagers, etc. Whether people claim allegiance to moral norms is not irrelevent to their behavior, even though many do not life up to their own stated ideals.

  • I suspect those on the left have their own moral positions though they may deny that. Just look at the furor over such issues as immigration restrictions, global warming etc. And like those on the right, there are many on the left that do not live up to their moral positions.
    No one is the equal of their ideals. The problem is what ideals are the right ones. Then, how to implement them.

  • Thanks for the comment, Darwin. I suspect that “researchers” on this topic go after their perception of hypocrisy from the Right. In a way, all they have to do is point to select developments in Republican-leaning regions, say “gotcha!” and move on. Point proved.

    I have yet to see a serious across-the-board study that would link abortion, divorce, and other issues with geography, politics, wealth, education, race, etc.. Unfortunately, any serious sociologist who attempted one would either be too biased from the outset, given the polarization of the culture, or would get hammered from both sides of the ideological divide. For now, I think we exist in a state of ignorance when it comes to other people’s morality. And maybe it’s better that way. Heaven knows I have my hands full with my own moral temptations.

    I’m not sure I would equate this situation too much with the parable of the two sons, the one who promised to work then didn’t (conservatives) and the one who declined to give lip service, but then reconsidered and labored (liberals). But we do know there are prominent folk who do not live up to their stated guiding principles. I’m disinclined to credit that as a torpedo to the movement, even ones I disagree with.

    I know, for example, a number of homosexuals who are highly moral people. For some people on the Right, they would trip over the sex and not get any further.

    Sex is a big part of morality, in part because of our culture’s fixation on it, but it’s not the only factor.

  • I grew up in New York and raise my family in NJ, the statistics in this book challenge stereotypes of both liberals and conservatives. However, I just read Frank Luntz’s book, “What Americans Really Want…Really”. Based on polls taken in the U.S. it states that families who regularly attend church and children who are brought up conscious of God and family life are often more aware about the consequences of their decisions and how a religious family life is beneficial to children. Luntz states that children who attend church, eat dinner as a family, take family vacations etc are less likely to take drugs. He also states parents should go over their children’s homework daily. There are tips that can benefit both red and blue families. If rural America and poor areas tend to have higher teen birth rates and unstable families then the U.S. Govt should be working harder to bring quality education and jobs and rescources to these areas especially. Also, many jobs that illegals hold may be desirable to poorer and less educated Americans. Hence, the unfortunate recent bias attacks in Staten Island where people in poorer areas were hostile as illegals came to their neighborhoods and took the jobs available in a sluggish job market. Also, since contraception is so widely accepted since the 60’s the governments role in promoting (politically or financially) contraceptives doesn’t seem so vital in blue states. Teens in middle class blue states are educated and now have the access they need.

Save Your Marriage!

Wednesday, November 11, AD 2009

Emotionally riveting song and video for me- I have been blessed to discover the value of my own family- and I vow everyday not to screw it up and make the little ones pay the price for my mistakes. Hang tough little families out there- prayer is like a rock that anchors me to what is good and holy in my life. My wife and kids are the highlight of my day, my nightmare is to think of my life right now without them.

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4 Responses to Save Your Marriage!

Culture Crash

Friday, July 17, AD 2009

That mainstream American culture is something of a train wreck is hardly news at this point, and that regard there’s a certain wisdom to the approach, “Let the dead bury their dead,” rather than having the brashness to be the one shouting, “Oh, hey, look! A body!” Still, occasionally one runs across things which are at the same time so sad and so indicative of our cultural ills one feels the need to comment. Such a case, to my mind at least, was this article from the most recent Atlantic Monthly suggesting that for the modern Homo suburbanicus middleclassus marriage is a failed idea which should be pretty much abandoned. Or as the cheery sub-headline succinctly put it: “The author is ending her marriage. Isn’t it time you did the same?”

The author is a 47 year old woman, a successful performance artist married to a musician, who after twenty years of marriage and two children find herself in the aftermath of an extramarital affair deciding that she really doesn’t feel like doing the work to rebuilt a relationship with her husband.

Which is not to say I’m against work. Indeed, what also came out that afternoon were the many tasks I—like so many other working/co-parenting/married mothers—have been doing for so many years and tearfully declared I would continue doing. I can pick up our girls from school every day; I can feed them dinner and kiss their noses and tell them stories; I can take them to their doctor and dentist appointments; I can earn my half—sometimes more—of the money; I can pay the bills; I can refinance the house at the best possible interest rate; I can drive my husband to the airport; in his absence, I can sort his mail; I can be home to let the plumber in on Thursday between nine and three, and I can wait for the cable guy; I can make dinner conversation with any family member; I can ask friendly questions about anybody’s day; I can administer hugs as needed to children, adults, dogs, cats; I can empty the litter box; I can stir wet food into dry.

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33 Responses to Culture Crash

  • I guess the first thing I’d say to any of these materialistic people is “No matter how bad you think your life sucks it can get a lot worse, trust me.” Not that that would dissuade them from any course of action.

  • Gee, I thought I heard “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy in the background as I read this article. Time to dig out the platform shoes and glitter T-shirts.

    You would think the author invented the idea of “nuturing superdads” staying home to change diapers and cook dinner while the moms went off to work. She’s not a youngster, so I wonder where she was in the ’70’s, when Mr.Mom and the sensitive male were supposed to be the wave of the future. In fact, all the alternative lifestyles she breathlessly catalogs were exhaustively discussed – and practiced by some “enlightened” souls – 30 years ago.

    Since then, research has clearly shown that children do best in a two-parent household where the parents are married to each other. But then, it’s not really about what’s good for the kids, is it? It’s about – well, Tom Wolfe didn’t call it the Me Decade for nothing.

  • It’s one thing for a silly post-modern feminist to come out against traditional marriage. When a “Catholic marriage spokesman” does it, it’s a bit more outrageous:

    Who said this?

    “Statistically, children do best in a family where the adult relationship is steady, stable and loving. Note that I stress adult, not married, since there is no evidence that suggests that children do best with heterosexual couples.”

    Was it

    (a) The head of the Consortium of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Anti-Discrimination voluntary and Community Organisations

    (b) The chair of the Haringey and Islington Travellers, Roma and Refugees Education and Information Strategy Board

    (c) Terry Prendergast, chief executive of Marriage Care, the Catholic Church-linked marriage agency which is still paid for by churchgoers up and down the country?

    The answer, sadly, is (c). Well, at least he will say it today, in a speech due to be delivered today to gay and lesbian Catholics in Leicester.

    Prendergast is proof that the culture wars are well and truly over (and we lost). Surely there is some second-rate university sociology department that could put him on the public payroll, one would think, and yet so far gone is the fanatical loony Left infiltration of British public life that he ends up working for the Catholic bureaucracy.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100003646/married-couples-no-better-as-parents-says-catholic-marriage-spokesman/

  • I wouldn’t blame the institution of marriage so much as I’d chalk it up to a bunch of insufferable boors trying to live together.

  • The hardness of their hearts.

  • I think my dear husband summed it up pretty well, if not very kindly:
    “It’s people being idiots. That’s always a problem. They probably can’t be happy, just like (family friend who also seems to enjoy being depressed and alone, although he’s mild.)”

  • Funny, but just today on another conservative blog, the blogger quoted an article soon to appear in “City Journal” which claims that marriage is alive and well among the middle and upper classes — it’s the poor who are experiencing and suffering most from the decline of marriage — and that the divorce rate for college educated women has actually DROPPED in the last 30 years. I’ll have to look up the author’s name.

    Another thought: perhaps if “Ellen” and others like had not wasted her “hot 20s” on a bunch of “bad boys” and had instead saved themselves for their spouses, it might have made their single lives duller, but their married lives more interesting! I believe other studies have actually shown that the couples who are overall happiest with their sex lives are — surprise, surprise — religiously observant, married Christians who abstained before marriage!

  • The article cited above is “Marriage and Caste in America” by Kay Hymowitz, in the July 3-5 weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal.

  • Performance artist? Isn’t that just a narcissistic mime in denial? And someone took her seriously?

  • Those stories reminded me of the childish, unhappy spouses in the film Little Children.

  • Good one, Rick!

  • I too was going to mention how marriage is very much an upper-class or middle-class thing. Of course, part of that phenomenon may be because divorce is impoverishing.

    Ross Douthat writes about looking around at his Harvard classmates and noticing they all came from intact families. Pieces like these can only be written by someone so secure that ordinary, necessary human institutions seem superfluous. She looks for example to tribal Africa, with customs not operative in the West since prehistoric times!

    In a previous era, these women would be leading decency crusades against pornography. Now they have careers and permissive attitudes that seem cool in your twenties, but are deadening later in life.

  • Kevin, another part of that phenomenon is that people who can barely support themselves, let alone anyone else, due to lack of education or employment opportunities tend not to marry, even if they already have one or more children. Thus a vicious cycle develops: when men in particular lack employment prospects, they do not marry, leaving women to raise children alone; the children, lacking father figures in their lives, drift into lifestyles that hamper their future employability (dropping out of school, drugs, crime, having children out of wedlock), so they do not marry, and the pattern continues into the next generation.

    I think Darwin has hit on an important point, in that husbands and wives tend to get along better when each has a distinct role that they fill — even if that role is not “traditional” — rather than scrupulously trying to divide everything 50-50. For a number of years when our daughter was young, my husband was the stay-at-home parent and I was the breadwinner, due to the fact that my job paid more and had much better health insurance benefits than the job he had before she was born.

  • Donna V. – I agree with you completely. Terry Prendergast should have lied rather than saying what the studies have found. What’s more important, some silly and obsolete prohibition on “bearing false witness”, or the Greater Good?

    You see, the problem is that while there’s ample evidence that two parents are better than one, and that a stable loving relationship benefits children, what evidence there is also says that it makes no difference if the parents are married or not, or even of different sexes or not.

    Several studies have been conducted on this to prove that a married relationship, and only a married relationship, provides these benefits: but stubbornly, the children of stable, unmarried couples keep on doing just as well as the children of married parents. Even the children of gay or lesbian parents do just as well.

    It would be inhuman to persecute these children so they do badly – so our only course is to supress these dangerous studies, and manufacture from whole cloth data to replace them. Fortunately there are many groups such as NARTH who see the need for deceit here.

    While we all have moral qualms about deceit, it’s the only way open to us if we are to justify these beliefs. An alternate, minority view – one I subscribe to – is that a monogamous and faithful marriage is the best way of assuring that a relationship remains stable, and justifying it that way.

  • The problem with looking to studies, regardless of how great the data and process is, is that they still won’t matter. I don’t think for a minute that anyone who chooses to shack up rather than get married or enter into a gay relationship and adopt kids do so because they think kids will be better off in that sort of home. A study showing otherwise will fall on deaf ears. All the talk that attempts to turn common sense and the Natural Law on their head are merely an attempt to soothe the conscience or transform our society (for the worse, IMO).

  • The problem with looking to studies, regardless of how great the data and process is, is that they still won’t matter.

    Family law and public policy with regard to foster care, adoptions, and even school curricula and discipline can be properly informed by sociological inquiry, and if the politicians are receptive, these studies will matter.

  • Family law and public policy with regard to foster care, adoptions, and even school curricula and discipline can be properly informed by sociological inquiry, and if the politicians are receptive, these studies will matter.

    Very true, and that’s the way it should be. My point, or rather, my cynicism is based on seeing policy and laws derived from contemporary fads and PC mores rather than empirical evidence, common sense, any sense of morality. Those people are not likely to heed any empirical evidence that runs counter to their desires.

  • Folks are also very likely to canex any study that will get them labeled as haters, and thus fired.

    As much as that annoys me, I can understand it….

  • Whatever happened to giving your word and sticking to it? The quoted article is sickening in its childishness. “I want! I want!”.

  • Zoe Brain writes:

    “but stubbornly, the children of stable, unmarried couples keep on doing just as well as the children of married parents. Even the children of gay or lesbian parents do just as well.”

    As I recall, children of such couples turn out to be more likely to be indifferent towards cohabitation and less inclined towards traditional marriage. That’s at least one sign they’re not doing just as well.

  • Zoe Brain: Can you provide a link? Ed West provides a link to one study which shows that children do best in a married two-parent family setting:

    http://www.civitas.org.uk/pubs/experiments.php

    It’s one thing for a silly, self-absorbed performance artist writing for a secular audience to bash marriage. It’s another thing for a man whose salary is paid by the Church and who works for an organization called “Marriage Care” to do it.

  • Oh, and noble truth teller Prendergast apparently missed this story, reported by the notoriously right-wing MSNBC:

    Children living in households with unrelated adults are nearly 50 times as likely to die of inflicted injuries as children living with two biological parents, according to a study of Missouri data published in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2005.

    Children living in stepfamilies or with single parents are at higher risk of physical or sexual assault than children living with two biological or adoptive parents, according to several studies co-authored by David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center.

    Girls whose parents divorce face significantly higher risk of sexual assault, whether they live with their mother or father, according to research by Robin Wilson, a family law professor at Washington and Lee University.

    “This is the dark underbelly of cohabitation,” said Brad Wilcox, a University of Virginia sociologist. “Cohabitation has become quite common, and most people think, ‘What’s the harm?’ The harm is we’re increasing a pattern of relationships that’s not good for children.”

  • Here’s the link to the story I quoted above.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21838575

  • Donna, there was also an article (on the same study, I think) published here:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/camilla_cavendish/article6244593.ece

    I thought it sounded more like “I am Woman, Hear Me Whine”, myself.

  • Oops, nope–multiple studies, opposite sides of the pond. It appears the Brits are finding the same problems we are.

    Recently I noticed a study indicating that the children of gay couples were significantly more likely to experiment with homosexual behavior (indicating behavioral influence and not just biology.) Keep in mind that gay couples raising children together are a very small population with not much history. Though it’s one case, I think the recent arrest of a Duke prof who was attempting to prostitute his adopted son (whom he and his parter were also abusing) should make us all rethink our prevailing paradaigms.
    Link here:http://durham.mync.com/site/Durham/news/story/37372/duke-health-policy-official-arrested-charged-with-offering-his-adoptive-5-y/

  • cminor: That Duke story is disgusting – that child the Duke prof was pimping out is 5 years old. Now, before Zoe Brain rushes back here to accuse me of close-mindedness and bigotry, let me say I think there are certainly unmarried couples – even gay couples – with children who love their kids and strive to do their best by them. And certainly abuse and neglect occur in married two-parent homes.

    “Single moms” have always existed: women who have struggled to raise their children by themselves because their husbands died or deserted the family. Many of them did, and still do, a very difficult job well and their children turn out fine. But never until the late ’60’s and ’70’s did anybody pretend that being a single mom was an enviable state of affairs and a model for young women to emulate. Never until then did people like Zoe try to propagate the romantic myth that children will blossom just fine in any exotic configuration of adults that happens to call itself a family.

    Zoe wrote:

    Several studies have been conducted on this to prove that a married relationship, and only a married relationship, provides these benefits: but stubbornly, the children of stable, unmarried couples keep on doing just as well as the children of married parents.

    Not this study, surely?

    Rates of victimization of children vary significantly by family structure, and the evidence shows that the married intact family is by far the safest place for children.6 (See Chart 3.) Although the United States has yet to develop the capacity to measure child abuse by family structure, British data on child abuse are available. These data show that rates of serious abuse of children are lowest in the intact married family but six times higher in the step family, 14 times higher in the always-single-mother family, 20 times higher in cohabiting-biological parent families, and 33 times higher when the mother is cohabiting with a boyfriend who is not the father of her children.

    http://www.heritage.org/research/family/bg1732.cfm#pgfId-1075817

  • Thanks for giving original sources.

    The heritage foundation material is entirely from a book published in 1993, supposedly based on raw data which can be found on the Bureau of Justice Statistics site.

    Except the raw data does not support the conclusions.

    The analysis ignores divorce as a factor. It compares couples who are still married, with single parents who have been in non-marital relationships for less than 6 months.

    If you compare those who have been married (including those subsequently divorced) with those who have been in stable non-married relationships (including ones that have subsequently broken up), the figures are as near as I can tell, identical. I’m open to correction on this, teasing this data out from the masses of tables is not easy.

    We have to be very careful not to confuse cause and effect here – it is not unknown for marriages to breeak up because one partner abuses the children. Being married reduces the chance of abuse, but having been married per se is no protection. If we made divorce more difficult, the rate of child abuse in marriage would rise.

    From Medscape:

    Oct. 13, 2005 (Washington) — An analysis of multiple studies of 500 households shows that rearing children in a same-sex household does not affect the their self-esteem, gender identity, or emotional health, a Boston researcher reported.

    The researcher and colleagues looked at data from 15 studies evaluating possible stigma, teasing, social isolation, adjustment, sexual orientation, and strengths. The findings were presented here at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition.

    “The vast consensus of the studies is that children of same-sex parents do as well as children whose parents are heterosexual in every way,” Dr. Perrin said. “In some ways, children of same-sex parents actually may have advantages over other family structures.”

    It has been estimated that one to six million children are being reared by committed lesbian or gay couples in this country. Some children were born to a heterosexual couple and later raised by a same-sex couple; others were placed in foster homes, were adopted, or conceived through a surrogate mother through artificial insemination.

    Previous studies of same-sex parenting have been criticized for being biased, but Dr. Perrin said the research team was extremely careful to select only solid, evidence-based research for review.

    Based on nine studies from 1981 to 1994 of 260 children, aged three to 11 years, reared by either heterosexual mothers or same sex-mothers after divorce, the researchers found there was no difference in intelligence of the children, type or prevalence of psychiatric disorders, self-esteem, well-being, peer relationships, or parental stress. “The children all had a similar emotional experiences with divorce,” she said.

    What they did find was that after divorce children being reared by lesbian mothers had more contact with fathers than children reared by divorced heterosexual mothers, Dr. Perrin said. “There are interesting suggestions that these children are more tolerant of differences.”

    A separate longitudinal study of 37 children of 27 divorced lesbian mothers and an equal number of children with divorced heterosexual mothers found no differences in behavior, adjustment, gender identity, and peer relationships.

    “What is exciting about this study was that they followed the children 11 years later when they became adults,” Dr. Perrin said. “But they still found no difference in adjustment, self-esteem, psychiatric or psychological problems, family relationships, or in identifying sexual orientation.”

    Four other large studies of more than 100 couples that evaluated children either born or adopted into families found that same-sex parents were more likely to have contact with extended family for social support as well as a more equal division of labor in the home. However, children of same-sex parents did experience some stigmatization.

    “The researchers found no differences in the parents other than that lesbian couples share household and child care tasks more equitably,” said Dr. Perrin. “The children of lesbian couples also appeared to be less aggressive, more nurturing to peers, more tolerant of diversity, and more androgynous,” playing with toys for both boys and girls.

    A further analysis of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health used randomly selected representative data from 44 adolescents aged 12 to 18 years. The study compared children living with two women in a “marriage-like” relationship to teenagers living with two heterosexual parents.

    The study showed that the adolescents were similar in intrapersonal adjustments such as self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. They also were similar in school success, family relationships, and neighborhood integration, Dr. Perrin said.

    “What is striking is that there are very consistent findings in these studies,” she concluded. “But further study conducted in a long-term systematic manner in community samples needs to be conducted.”

    Personally, I think it very likely that the additional stability of marriage vows is very desirable in a relationship. The problem there is that this inescapably leads to an argument for gay marriage, or at least a legal recognition of a relationship which is an exact equivalent, looking at things purely from the view of child welfare.

    I’m more troubled by the serial polygamy practiced in the USA, with it being seen as quite normal and socially acceptable for people to have been divorced and re-married, often more than once.

  • Donna V.

    Never until then did people like Zoe try to propagate the romantic myth that children will blossom just fine in any exotic configuration of adults that happens to call itself a family.

    I think it is time I put in a disclaimer, as honesty compels me to say that my objectivity has to be severely questionable in such matters.

    I am in about as “exotic” a relationship as it is possible to be. One that has had canon lawyers and theologians scratching their heads and praying for guidance. The Magisterium remains silent, and I expect an answer long after I’m dead, if ever.

    There’s a condition called “Intersex”, meaning born with a body neither wholly male nor wholly female. There’s hundreds of different medical syndromes under this broad category – women with the 46xy chromosomes usually only found in men, men with the 46xx chromosomes usually only found in women, both men (Usually) and women (rarely) with 47xxy chromosomes, people with ambiguous bodies classifiable as neither, mosaics and chimerae with either male or female body parts – and male or female chromosomes in them – depending on which part of the body you look at, all sorts.

    True fertile hermaphrodites are nearly unknown, one in several million.

    More common, but still rare, are serial hermaphrodites, those born looking like one sex, but who change in a natural process to the other. Very rare in humans, though the norm in many other species.

    Usually the change is from female to male, and happens during a late puberty, due to either 5ARD or 17BHDD syndrome. Very few such people marry that early. Usually. Female-to-male changes can sometimes be complete, and the men able to father children, though usually they’re partial, and the men are sterile.

    About 1% of such changes go the other way, and about 8 out of 10 of those happen around age 45-50.
    Before the change, the women concerned are usually misdiagnosed as mildly intersexed men. It’s only when they have a female puberty in their late 40’s that the medics give them vast numbers of tests, and re-diagnose them as severely intersexed women. The change is never complete, and sterility results. But while they’re infertile before the change, they may not be sterile. They’re often married, with children, as they have the normal maternal instincts.

    So… I’m married. But to another woman. And we have a son. Our relationship is celebate (of course), as neither of us are lesbian.

    “Exotic relationship” is right. But our vows were “in sickness and in health”, no cavils or waivers for what medical conditions counted. We love each other just as much as we always did. And we love our son, who is our whole world, and who needs two parents.

    If the data had said that being raised by same-sex parents was bad for children, we would have separated and found new partners. It would certainly have been easier than lifelong celibacy, even though we love each other dearly. You do after nearly 30 years of marriage. So we did a lot of research on the subject.

    I admit though that my objectivity under the circumstances must be questionable at best. My son’s welfare depends on us successfully making this “Romantic Myth” a reality. We just don’t have the choice to do anything else.

  • Zoe, thanks for sharing your story, though it must have been difficult for you. I would like to add a few points here that I hope will be helpful to you although I am hardly an expert in sociology or canon law.

    What is true as a general rule is not necessarily true in every individual case. I’m sure all of us know people raised by single or divorced parents who turned out just fine and went on to have stable marriages. We also know people who were raised in intact families who turned out seriously messed up. It doesn’t change the fact that IN GENERAL, it’s better for children to be raised by a married mother and father.

    Also, there’s a big difference between a “broken” or “exotic” family situation that occurs as a result of circumstance, through no fault of the persons involved (e.g. being widowed with young children; a single aunt/uncle taking in an orphaned relative) and one that is entered into deliberately with little or no regard for the welfare of the children involved (a single mom choosing to cohabit with a guy she just met).

    If I understand your situation correctly, you and your wife did not choose to enter a same-sex relationship — it happened long after your marriage due to a medical condition that caused you to become biologically female. As a result you now live in celibacy, but remain faithful to your original marriage vows. It’s not the same as a same-sex union in which the persons involved clearly identify themselves as gay or lesbian, enter a relationship intended to be homosexual, and choose to bring children into that relationship by adoption or some form of surrogate biological parenthood.

    I don’t know how old your son is, or how aware he is of your condition. You can explain to him at an appropriate time, if you have not done so already, that his dad has an extremely rare medical condition which made him become female later in life. It doesn’t change the fact that you and your wife entered a traditional, valid marriage. No “romantic myth” involved there, just two people who take their marriage vows seriously even when life dealt them a hand they probably never imagined.

    Anyway, I just thought I’d present a more objective point of view in hopes that it would be helpful to you. Your family will be in my prayers.

  • Zoe, in an earlier post I wrote: ” let me say I think there are certainly unmarried couples – even gay couples – with children who love their kids and strive to do their best by them. ” You are not unmarried, nor are you and your wife exactly a typical gay couple. You did not opt for a sex change operation; what happened to you was beyond your control and both you and your spouse have made the best of a situation that is unimaginably difficult. I apologize for my earlier snarky tone and wish you and your family well.

    I’m with Elaine here. I think the reason I reacted so strongly to the article posted by DarwinCatholic and to Prendergast’s statement is that I am only a few years older than the woman who wrote that article. Over the years I have known many people who think like her. I also have seen what impact the sexual revolution has had on their lives (and on my life; I am very far from being free of sin in this area). I have also seen the impact on the lives of their children and so I bristle when people who are old enough to know better still pretend that it’s all been just one big jolly romp and accuse anyone who says otherwise of prudery and intolerance. That is simply willful blindness.

    My ex- brother in law left my sister, his wife of 20 years and his then-13 year old son for a 26 year old. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I answered the phone at 2 a.m. to listen to her sob while that was going on. The 26 year old got pregnant, but, contrary to the other woman’s expectations, he did not marry her after he divorced my sister. So now he’s a 60 year old man with 2 year old twins who spends a lot of time in court. My best friend’s husband left her and their 2 children for someone he met online. I could go on and on and on – and so could most of us, I suspect.

    I agree that a stable relationship, even one outside of marriage, is probably better for children than serial pologamy. The trouble is that it is very difficult for me to think of anybody I know who has one. A lot of my friends “shacked up” with guys back in their 20’s and 30’s – none of them are still with those men. One issue I have with gay marriage is that none of the gay men I was friends with back in my younger years exhibited much respect for the idea of monogamy, whether they were in a relationship or not. And these were not flaming queens, but respectable, very “straight-acting” men. They did not fill me in on the specifics of their sex lives, but I learned enough to know that casual sexual encounters are considered entirely acceptable by many gay men, even those in relationships. Men with SSA who are living chastely are the outliers. (Apparently, fooling around is less acceptable among lesbians – I can’t say because I’ve never known any lesbians well.) So, at a time when children are already suffering from the effects of selfish and irresponsible behavior on the part of straight people who have to scratch every itch, do we open the floodgates even wider and pretend that marriage and adoption of children by people in a subculture already famous for promiscious sex will do no harm?

    My problem with Prendergast is that a spokesman for a Catholic organization that supposedly promotes Christian marriage ought to be, er, promoting Christian marriage, not pretending that having a wedding ring on the finger or not makes no difference as long as the relationship is “stable.” Especially in the UK, where marriage rates are at an all-time low. It’s like having the Surgeon General tell a group of smokers that an occasional Marlboro really won’t hurt.

  • A friend working in a large urban hospital in a poor section of town reports on the large number of abused babies. It happens in “relationships” where the man is not the father of the baby. And when the baby cries [as babies tend to do] will beat the child.

  • At the risk of (temporarily) de-railing the thread – my thanks to everyone for your best wishes. A few clarifications. Yes, it hasn’t been easy – but the change was a release from a terrible situation I’d resigned myself to live in with what grace I could. I just hoped for an early and honourable death.

    In that regard, I was no different from any trans woman. I don’t see their situation as being any more of a choice than mine was. In fact, the only difference between them and myself is that I lacked their courage to act with honesty and integrity. I kept on living a lie until that became impossible.

    My son has just turned eight. He was three at the time the change started. I used to do (and still do) some simple stage magic, making coins vanish and re-appear to entertain children, that kind of thing. He viewed my changing into a woman as being just another magic trick.

    He understands more now. There are some children at his school with two mommies, but he’s the only one whose daddy turned into a girl before his very eyes. He doesn’t say that to other kids though, as they don’t believe him.

    It is… difficult… explaining to new after-school carers and teachers just exactly what the relationship between my boy and myself is. You just have to see the funny side.

    Women as terribly intersexed as I am are almost always unable to have children. Now I could not carry my child, and yes, my instincts feel a pang there, but he is my son, my own flesh and blood, and my heart goes out to all those women who were unable to conceive. I wasn’t either, but I cheated.

    I’d count my blessings – but I have far too many of them to count. Let’s see, a release from a hellish situation (you know about half in that situation suicide?), able to have a child despite unbelievable odds… Oh yes, I’ve been blessed all right. The only question I have is why me? Why not one of the many people I know who deserve it far more than I did?

    Now after that little digression, back to the issues at hand.

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On Vacation

Thursday, June 18, AD 2009

On Vacation

I’m on vacation this week with my family.  Yesterday my wife and I took the kids to Brookfield Zoo, something we have been doing since 1998 when the kids were quite young .  I hope that my three sophisticated teenagers still enjoy it and are not just humoring dear old Dad.  My wife and I certainly still love going to the zoo.  A few observations:

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5 Responses to On Vacation

  • I grew up in Berwyn, IL and frequently visited the zoo throughout my childhood. It is indeed an “only in America!” type of place. I’ll have to go back and visit one of these days!

  • Is the pic of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza?

    Good posting.

  • Yep and thanks Tito.

  • I’m not generally a fan of Picasso’s work, but his Don Quixote is one of my favorite pieces of art (I like his bullfighting scenes as well).

    When my wife and I were dating a decade ago, she and her mother and sister went to Spain for a week. She asked me if I wanted her to bring me back anything. I printed out a picture of the above work of art and told her that I wanted a t-shirt with that on it and the word “Espana” beneath it.

    She actually found exactly what I wanted and brought it back to me.

  • Don Quixote sums up nicely both the glory of Spain, seeking to accomplish the seemingly impossible and stunningly doing so more than once, and also the difficulty that Spaniards have often had throughout their history in dealing with this frame of reality.