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How Society Works

How Society Works

A New Deal by Grasping the Other “Third Rail”

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I was honored to be part of a meeting with some really great men who are working on connecting absent fathers to their children. Yet they are so busy they are too preoccupied to do anything about the cause, so their work grows rather than diminishes.

I understand.  Nobody wants to touch the cause. To tackle the cause of this cancer is to call down the wrath of almost everyone they work with — the parents, the extended family, most of the teachers, even the clergy.  

What causes fatherlessness?   More than anything else: out of wedlock births.  And we know what causes out of wedlock births!

What, in the past, dissuaded and prevented out of wedlock sex?  The cause was a culture that harshly punished out of wedlock births, monitored out of wedlock sex and shamed it harshly.  Taboos were present, powerful, and enforced by virtually everyone. Up to 1950 around 3% of births were out of wedlock

This culture (and its taboos) was the greatest ally parents had in shaping the sexual behavior of their children.  It taught the big lesson: sex is for marriage. Period. It was the floor below which you did not dare think of descending, or if you did you decided it was not worth the price.  Taboos constrained your choices. Taboos are the powerful defense mechanisms of society. 

Those taboos are gone.  Leaders today are afraid to lead, and we do not have a polis that permits a discussion about this.  The clergy will not speak about it, knowing that many in their congregation will rebel and go elsewhere, taking their money with them. Teachers will not speak about it. They fear getting fired. Doctors won’t touch it (most of them), though they, like teachers, see the consequences daily.  Lawyers won’t touch it, though they see the results in court every day. Actors and celebritites won’t touch it. 

Yet nobody will touch it.  Nobody wants to be the bad guy. That is why taboos were a society-wide task—spread out among all of us, for all had a stake though no-one wanted to be “the bad guy”.  Therefore, together we were, collectively, the “the bad guy”. That is how taboos work.  

This presents us with a huge problem. Taboos once violated without retribution lose their power.  That leaves us with only one option: persuasion. But how can persuasion work when a topic can’t be discussed openly and seriously?

One person has the podium big enough to get attention.  And he has the qualifications: he has violated these sexual norms, repeatedly.  Controversy is second nature to him. He is not afraid of it. He can get things done.

He has a wife who could stomach this attention and take it with calm, dignity and courage, even as he blows the lid off the topic by saying something like the following:

“You all know my history on this issue.  I can see my sexual past with increasing clarity. Many people would say I made many mistakes.  They are wrong. They were not “mistakes”. Mistakes are things that happen to you inadvertently, mainly through no fault of your own.  But I did what I wanted to do — deliberately. I did not make mistakes. I did wrong. Being blunt about it, I did things that were evil. 

“Consensual sex by a man and a woman can be one of the greatest joys on earth if they are married, but a great evil if they are not. Why? Because a baby can result!   And that baby is immediately in danger of being killed (in abortion) or having a life of pain and suffering (out of wedlock). The baby is a beautiful new being. The evil is present in the life sentence it is getting.

“I took that chance many, many times. Deliberately.  So, I have no authority to speak to anyone about being sexually pure.  But I have authority on this evil. I know it. I have practiced it. I wish I had not.  One thing you can be certain of I will not be casting any stones.  

“It is time for a new deal on matters sexual, a New Deal for Our Children.  They need it badly.   

“Our children need this new deal so that we stop wounding them through massively misguided sex.  It is time to call a spade a spade. Sex is meant for babies and love. Sex leads to babies, and babies need the love of their mother and father and their love for each other.  That is safe sex, great sex, beautiful sex, fruitful sex, challenging sex. All else is, ultimately, fake sex.  

“All babies are precious. No baby is evil. But a lot of evil can swirl around babies when they are not conceived and born in marriage.  We all know that. We all used to uphold that. Now we don’t and we pay a very big price, but no one pays a bigger one than the babies. The mothers and fathers pay, too, but not nearly as much as children do. They pay the price of evils done to them.  

“None of us can cast stones at anyone here, me least of all.  That is why I take up this topic because you know I cannot throw stones at anyone. But for our children we have to put this genie back in the bottle.  The genie is sex. The bottle is marriage.

“The baby is safest there, happiest there, healthiest there, wealthiest there, most learned there, most capable there, lives longest there.  We owe this to every baby. There is not a baby in existence who does not deserve the stable marriage of its parents. It is not only its birthright. It is its conception-right.  

“I have a great wife – better than I deserve.  How she puts up with me I will never understand.  Imagine having to live with me. How she loves me is a mystery.  Without her support I could not even think of speaking about this.  I am in awe of her that she permitted me to do so.

“But we need many others to speak:

“Governors, who want children to have their due.

“Actors and sports celebrities who want every child to have its due;

“Jail birds …yes, jailbirds. Many of them know these truths better than most of us do.  What it did to them and what they in turn have done to their children. 

“Many will say that I ought to be silent on this issue but the powerful in our county would speak up on this.  But they don’t: though almost all of them have married intact families. Here in the nation’s capital almost 90 percent of teenagers in the professional, wealthy Northwest DC are living with their married biological parents?  In Southeast DC where the poor live it is 9 percent.  

“The successful in life live this way but they are afraid to speak this way in public.  That is why I am speaking up for all our children. They need someone to speak for them, even if it turns out to be me. 

“For men this is about turning over a new leaf.  It is about honoring the woman in our lives by putting a ring on her finger before taking her to bed.

“We want to reduce fatherlessness.  If you are not for marriage you are for fatherlessness.  With marriage we will heal so many things that have gone wrong:

  • Poverty
  • School drop out
  • STDs and so many other illnesses
  • Child physical and sexual abuse
  • Violence in the family
  • Violence the neighborhood.

“And we will produce 

  • Increased happiness
  • Increased learning
  • Increased income and savings
  • Longer life
  • Healthier life
  • And better sex!  Yes, better, more frequent more enjoyable sex.

“What a deal!  

Money, Love, and Time

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Twice in my life I have had a look inside the female universe, bypassing the protections by which women naturally keep men out of certain conversations.  The first time, while I was in graduate school, was a Sunday walk with some single friends, male and female.  There were no romantic pairings and at one stage all the men were walking together ahead.  I was held up for a moment and overheard the young women behind me.  Amazed and intrigued, I resumed walking ahead but staying in earshot. They were assessing the income potential of each of us guys.  Two were medical school students, one was a lawyer, one an architect and I was a Ph.D. candidate in psychology. These women knew the income effect on lifestyles and family life (and ranked psychology pretty low!) The amazing thing to me was that this was not a “gold-diggers” conversation — they were all nice young women — but it clearly was an easy conversation for young women to have about the young men they might become interested in.  Of course, they were right:  they would have to depend on that income for a lot of what they were hoping to achieve during their life. They were wise to be clear about that before they set anything in motion.

(The second inside look inside the female universe has the makings of another blog — someday soon.)

Many great novels have dealt with this theme of the impact of income on the decision to marry, and we all relate to that.  I, too, had a similar role a few years ago, when a future son-in-law came asking for my blessing on his proposal to my daughter.  He was a good man and I gave him my blessing but only after we had a course-correcting chat about his education/income track.

Income is a key ingredient to a good marriage.  Any young man wanting to win his fair lady had better take care of this dimension, for money and time are interchangeable.  The more money he makes, the more time he will be able to devote to his wife and children, who will (subconsciously) measure his love of them by the time he gives to them, though in hard times they see their father’s long hours of work as loving them, especially if their mother sees it so. But aside from such circumstances, love and time-giving are almost equivalent. Good income makes that gift possible.

The good father passes on this wisdom to his so, most especially if he begins, during adolescence, to slacken off on schoolwork in favor of chasing girls because, inadvertently, he may be setting up his future loss of the girl of his dreams!

If the father is close to his sons, it is unlikely they will be out “chasing girls”.  What is more likely is either they are holding off or they have already set their heart on the girl of their dreams. Either way their future looks good though their income levels may be different.

For the good of the child, the future of mankind,

Pat Fagan

Revolutionary Men

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The marriage between a man and a woman is the single most important human relationship. Period.

Many have dismissed it, others treat is as optional, and some have attacked and weakened it. For more than half of American-17-year-olds the marriage of their parents does not exist.  They pay the price and so will their children! This absence of marriage is the greatest threat to our freedoms.

Feminists have deliberately destroyed marriage. Strangely, they are now so socially powerful that many men are afraid to talk openly of marriage, family, fidelity, having children, sacrificial love, or ‘till death do us part”.

Though reforms are necessary in education, government spending, social welfare, social justice, criminal justice, economics and in the defense of Rights and Constitution, so long as marriage is weakened, these will be irrelevant.  Without marriage our society will collapse, leaving us only with coercive government. Our best and brightest tell us we are already “Coming Apart” and that for  “Our Kids the American Dream [is already] in Crisis”.

How do we restore marriage?  One father at a time by his taking on the sexual formation of his son, not leaving it to others or to chance. The goal is faithful monogamy.  All men are inclined to wander, sexually. All men have this vulnerability, for men are made like a shot guns but need to be rifles. Sexually, men are inclined to scatter shot, but to be a good husband and father they need to aim at one bullseye.  The good father mentors his boy to put down the shot gun and pick up a rifle. This is the “gun control” the US needs! Without it the nation dies. Many people sense this. 

Fathers need to gain the confidence to insist that they are the ones who understand male sexuality best.  By harnessing it they honor the women in their life. These are the great “feminists”.  

Who can be against fathers preparing their sons to honor all women by honoring his wife with all his heart and fidelity?  This is the reform the United States needs. Everything else takes second place in family, in church, in education, marketplace and government.

This is not a political reform though it is massive in its political ramifications, nor a theological reform, nor economic reform, nor education reform. This is not a women’s issue — it is a men’s issue — with massive implications for the good of women and girls.

Fathers forming the sexuality of their sons is the deepest reform possible. Nothing is more strategic. This project will transform America by restoring its most fundamental relationship, marriage. 

Men who can so form boys are our nation’s greatest need. Men who think this way need to find each other, support each other, and expand their network.  While they will differ on politics, religion, education, and economics, they are united on forming their sons and therefore can invite others to join them in bringing sex education home where they  will change it from “sex gone wild” to “really good sex”; one father at a time; one son at a time. 

This is revolutionary manliness. It packs the punch our nation needs.

Let me know what you think!  And sign up here for The Father-Son Project if you want to be part of it. 

And, pass this on to a friend or relative who might want to think about it too.

The Wandering Male vs. Ordered Liberty

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Male-female differences in attachment styles point in the same direction that Millet and Firestone, the Marxist feminists, pointed: men are inclined to wander, sexually.  J. R. R. Tolkien, definitely not a Marxist feminist, more or less said the same in his letter to his son on marriage: “Men are not [monogamous]. No good pretending. Men just ain’t, not by their animal nature.” 

Tolkien is tutoring his son in fidelity in marriage.  It is a phenomenal letter. From a man who wrote love poems to his wife all his life it is bracing and, for many, shocking in its lack of sentimentality,.

Read it. You will learn more from it than from me on how fathers shape the sexuality of their sons, the single most important task facing the human race. With family and sexuality gone so wrong, even our brightest scholars are struggling to grasp the implications. In “China’s Changing Family Structure: Dimensions and Implications” just published by the American Enterprise Institute , Nicholas Eberstat, the editor, has this to say:

“In Japan at this writing, there is a conspicuous disinterest in sex with others on the part of a growing share of young men and women. The first “marriages” between men and video game avatars have already been consummated, and “marriage” between humans and sex robots may not be far away. Can we say with confidence that all this—and more—cannot happen anywhere else on the planet? Indeed, with continuing increases in affluence and material capabilities, the family at large might increasingly be treated as a social construct rather than a biological lifeline, ever more sculpted by and contingent upon the unbridled quest for personal autonomy. In such a world, blood lineage would matter less and less, and conscious selection of others would matter more and more, in the formation of “families.” As a matter of fact, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had a premonition to this very effect two centuries ago; it is hinted at in his novel titled Die Wahlverwandtschaften, conventionally translated as “Elective Affinities,” but equally well as “Kin by Choice.” It is difficult to think deeply about such a human future, let alone to work through exactly what society, economy, and politics might look like in it. Presumably some great elixir of trust in others outside the bloodline would have to prevail and permeate daily life. But what else?”

We in the United States have some of this problem, but we have much going for us, too, made clear in The Next Hundred Million” by Joel Kotkin. The US is the world’s ongoing experiment in freedom. Increasingly we are a people of many peoples (“a race of races”) and of many religions.  We are a nation founded on the principles of ordered liberty. Though we have never fully attain that ideal, we constantly struggle to get there.

Yet there is something even more fundamental than ordered liberty.  Underneath the US Constitutional order is ordered male sexuality, giving us ordered liberty between man and woman in marriage and family life.

The Marxist feminists understood this and exploited male sexuality to create the chaos we are now experiencing. Tolkien understood it and instead demanded of himself what was needed to have that form of liberty in his marriage and his family.

If it is to remain the world’s ongoing experiment in freedom, the U.S. needs fathers who shape their sons to honor women so that the sons become great husbands and fathers.  Nothing is more important right now.

Dollar Rich but Time (and Relationship) Poor Americans: A Way Out?

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Forming and developing relationships takes time not money. In the U.S. we are great at making money, running businesses and increasing productivity, and have  57 Nobel Laureates in Economics to prove it. The rest of the world agrees and beats a path to our universities to learn how.  Though we are the richest nation in history, however, our people don’t get much paid vacation, and more than half don’t use the small amount they do get! Contrast this with Western Europe where most take August off for family vacation time. I myself, an immigrant from Ireland, was struck by this difference and concluded that “Americans live to work while Europeans work to live.”

Is there any connection here with the fact that America is in deep relationship crisis: only 46% of our children grow up in a family with both parents present all the time? For Black Americans it is only 17%! As a culture we excel at work and income but fail miserably in relationships even as we are very generous with our money.

We lead in helping to pull the world’s remaining half billion out of extreme poverty, yet are digging a cultural grave for ourselves as the  Senate’s alarming report, Trends in Deaths of Despair (aka suicide) reveals. For the U.S. Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s remark holds true: “There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love.”

Yet, there may be a way of harnessing our “work” strength to resolve our relationship weakness. 

Recently I had an epiphany while trying to help a friend who had “screwed up” his marriage and family life. He was trying hard to put it back together, but in his anxiety was jumping all over the place and getting nowhere except into deeper trouble. I was close to throwing in the towel, for nothing I did helped. Then a grace came: “What are the most important relationships in your life?” I asked.  He answered, “God and my wife.” Then I said, “Why not ask your wife ‘What is the one thing I can do for you today that will bring our relationship closer to what you want it to be?’ He liked that. He has been doing it every day and says his wife reports their relationship is the best it has been for years! By prioritizing the work involved around the needs of their relationship he sped ahead.

Then it occurred to him to go further: why not look at all the other relationships in his life and, mentally, ask and answer the same question for his children (one by one), his boss (i.e. his work), and so on.  Soon he had all his tasks rank-ordered but in a way that fit both “U.S. productivity” standards as well as his own need to have the people in his life happier with him.

He concluded: “There is no point doing anything before “the single most needed thing” in any of these relationships.”  When he surveyed them all, he found he had his whole life covered! In order of importance and with peace in his soul.

I have been mulling this over and applying it. Here is what I have learned so far:

  • All our tasks (productivity) can be looked at relationally.    
  • Simultaneously every important relationship has a task waiting to bring it to the next level.
  • Relationships give us the most productive rank-ordering of what we should be doing.  Everybody (wife, bosses, friends, God) will likely agree with the ordering.
  • Our productivity will soar, for we will be at peace and able to concentrate.
  • It is a fine way “to love your neighbor”.

The experiment is still ongoing for me and for my friend. I suspect that with constant practice it will have a profound re-orienting effect.  I wish I had “discovered” it when I was much younger. I would have lived my life differently — with better work and richer relationships. 

Hillbilly Elegy: The Power of an Attachment beyond Mother’s or Father’s

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I recently listened to J.D.Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, and given Faith and Family Finding’s recent exploration of attachment research, I found that a blessing for I heard the story differently.  

In spite of Appalachian poverty, family violence and addiction, and his mother’s five husbands, Vance and his sister end well: he with a Yale Law degree and a beautiful wife; she with a peaceful marriage.

Despite the violence and drugs, there were two secret ingredients: one, the deep attachment of virtually all in the family of origin to each other, and to their culture and place, and, two, the care of his maternal grandparents, who had overcome, somewhat, their own problems of addiction and violence.  Both grandparents played a big role in Vance’s image of what he could be. They sternly propped him up, always with massive doses of affection and the assurance that he always had a home — their home. ‘Mawmaw’ his grandmother, was the deepest influence. Originally a scandal to her family, pregnant at age 14, she fled Appalachia with her young husband and settled in the booming town of Middletown, Ohio. 

The human heart is made to belong, and Vance was instinctively aware of it throughout his young, struggling childhood.  Though close to going under a few times, he continued to strive. He was bright, both intellectually (Yale Law) and socially (he could read the situations well), but he also had a few saviors, his sister and Mawmaw, who was anchor for them both.  Feeling unprepared for college, he joined the Marines to toughen up. Heart, intellect and a secure base (Mawmaw and the Marines), these have given the world a great talent, who now is devoting himself to helping others have the same.

If you have not read the book, I recommend it.  Ron Howard, whose movie version comes out in 2020, has a good record in directing biographies, letting the truth of the story come out through his lens. 

I hope Howard is inspired to explore the life of Vance’s sister Lindsay, who, with a preternatural calm and prudence, repeatedly protected him before his own abilities kicked in.  She went on to marry a good man and raise a sizeable family. Women like her, hidden in the background, constantly build and renew the world.

For the good of the child, the future of the world,

Pat Fagan

What is Your Attachment Style, Dad?

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Is your attachment style a help or hindrance to your son’s future capacity for intimacy with the woman he will marry? 

Our capacity to belong to others is shaped by our early experiences of security or fear in the big relationships of our childhood.

John Bowlby began attachment theory with an accumulation of insights, starting in the 1950’s. This perspective has progressed enormously in both developmental psychology and in its application to individual and marital therapy (emotionally focused therapy).

The basic insights are well within the grasp of ordinary people, and by observing the patterns of those they are close to (parents, siblings, friends, co-workers) they can get a sense of the different styles and then begin to reflect on what their own might be.  Though there are many subdivisions, the three main styles are:

  1. Securely attached
  2. Insecure Anxious
  3. Insecure Avoidant 

The securely attached are at ease with appropriate intimacies with family and friends. They are easy to confide in and are at ease confiding in others.  They are not driven nor constrained by unfounded fears of the other in front of them.

The two basic forms of insecure attachments are ways of handling fears provoked whenever someone is getting “too close”.  Some call the Insecure-Anxious the “Protestor” because their anxiety often takes a slightly angry form and they “protest” a lot.  The Insecure-Avoidant type is sometimes called a “Withdrawer”, for they pull back a lot. 

Naturally, it is much better for a boy to have a father who has the capacity to be securely attached to his son, shows affection with ease and delights in affirming his son’s development.  A father who protests his son’s behavior a lot is likely either to drive his son away in avoidant withdrawal or to make him anxious and defensive (protestor). Neither does the father who is withdrawn and fearful of expressing his affection or affirmation generate a sense of security in his son.  

However, many fathers, given their own upbringing are protestors or withdrawers, through no fault of their own.  What can they do about it? 

First, they can become aware of what a “protestor” looks like and what an “withdrawer” looks like by observing or recollecting those they know well: their mother, their father, their individual brothers and sisters; their wife and their wife’s family members.  (It will be wise not to comment on what they deduce but just learn quietly so that they can figure out what their own pattern is. Insecure patterns were created to guard against the pain expected or feared. It is best to tread lightly here and stay silent.)  

Another way fathers can learn what their style is, is to ask trusted friends or relatives what they observe and think.  Of course, this assumes enough security to approach that friend. But overcoming the fear is worth it.

Whatever our styles and the early relationships that molded them, as adults, we have the power and chance to deliberately alter the pattern with our children (and with our spouse).  

A son needs to be at ease with his father if he is to accept what his father says on matters sexual as he goes through adolescence.  Sexuality is designed for intimacy and creativity, so the son’s rating of his father’s capacity for intimacy will color his receptivity (probably subconsciously, but powerfully).  Thus, a protesting or withdrawing father needs to deliberately adopt a new style (which takes study and effort) at least with his son and for his son’s sake. The earlier, the better.

How can a father change? If his marriage is in decent (“good enough”) shape but he spots things he would like to change, his wife can help him (and benefit herself) by the study and discussion of a few books.  One to explore, first on the marriage front: Face to Face: Seven Keys to a Secure Marriage by therapist Jesse Gill.  By “looking inside” on Amazon, one can read most of the first chapter and decide whether to follow through.    Another good read is the well-told, autobiographical story of Jed Diamond, also a therapist, My Distant Dad. It details his own trials and disasters as he groped his way towards healing a deep wound, though not before causing many wounds along the way.  But he has helped thousands since. 

If your own life is “good enough” these books go beyond your needs but are a good way to see the basics in action. Another, less discriminating way is to pick and choose videos on “attachment” on You Tube. The objective is for all is to become sensitive to how easy or difficult we are to be close to, and how that is shaping our children’s capacity for a happy marriage, and our sons’ abilities to trust their father on sex and marriage. 

It is a basic knowledge we all need.  Everyone benefits.

Man’s Most Basic Need: The Need to Belong

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All our Faith and Family Findings of the last few months drive home the most basic fact about man: We are made to belong. And, cannot belong just to ourselves. 

 Our capacity to be attached appropriately to the important people in our lives (spouses, children, friends and our colleagues at work) determines our happiness. Yet, our capacity to be attached to others is primarily a product of how attached to us our mother was, which in turn is largely a product of her experiences of attachment in her earliest years.  Granted, biological hardwiring of the child has a big effect on how a mother responds to her infant’s need for attachment. Some infants are easier to hold and enjoy. But it is those who are not so easy to enjoy who that affection they seem to reject even as they cry for it.  

So much can be unpacked from the data of our recent Findings: the mothers need for a husband (and extended family) who take special care of her as these huge new demands are put on her and the husband’s capacity to take second place to a newborn in his wife’s new life of “distributing affection”. (The first birth is the occasion that triggers more divorces than any other life event – or so the data showed about 15 years ago.  I have not seen any contrary data since).  

From the mix of our early attachment experiences, combined with our neurological make-up, four main styles of attachment influence arise that shape our relationship dominant style for the rest of our lives: secure attachment (easy to get along with plus a capacity to  accept people as they are); anxious attachment (wanting and seeking attachment but never feeling fulfilled because of a fear of not being lovable enough); avoidant attachment style (keeping a distance, reaching out but with reservations, pulling back or with- holding commitment) and then anxious-avoidant (a mixture of anxiously reaching out and then pulling back).  

It is amazing to see in the data how pervasive these styles are in our relationships:  in romance and marriage; in the “ordinary” settings of work; biologically on the immune system, longevity, capacity to handle stress and even on the capacity to deal with psychosis!  

We are made to belong, and the good life is to belong securely with those who are most important to us in life.   The growing concern is “How to get there?” One of the greatest mystics in human history (recognized so across all religions) is John of the Cross …so named for his penetration of the meaning of suffering (and he experienced many severe rejections from those most important to his life).  His guidance: “Where there is no love, put love and you will find love.” 

Behavioral psychologists already know how to help anxious or avoidant mothers break the intergenerational cycle of insecure attachment —not by eliminating the insecurity in the mother, but by teaching her how to act in an attached way towards her infant child (despite her feelings).  It works! John of the Cross and behavioral psychologists acting in tandem!

Given the breakdown in family and the almost culturally-normed experience of parental rejection that so many children have in our era,  we have an epidemic of detachment, evidenced, for instance, in the opioid epidemic, or in manifestations such as the sexual behavior the Japanese cohort of millennials no longer interested in marriage or romance or even in the opposite sex. Further, new discoveries in making the digital more reality like, and in the games derived, are adding quickly shaping  “detachment patterns” of adolescent addiction to the digital, non-relational life. 

Much beckons for all parents across the globe in learning how to stem detachment in their children and, instead, to help them be attached human beings.  Neurobiological insights will help and motivate. Cognitive behavioral discoveries in therapeutics will help, and stories from those who overcome these habits will help.  

We are entering a very new phase in human history: even as we conquer space and the atom and everything in between we are eroding our capacities for attachment.  But everything most human depends on attachment. The world will soon be starving for a solution. The data of Mapping America   indicates the way.

For the good of the child, the future of America,

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.

The Body Language of Belonging

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Today’s findings are body-speak for man’s deepest need: the need to belong, and remind us of the famous sociological phenomenon, the Roseto Effect.  Roseto, Pennsylvania, was a virtual transplant of a people and culture of the town of Roseto in southeast Italy.  It kept the old country patterns of tight family and extended family ways of life , leading to a total integration of the generations, predictable habits of work, play, family and worship; interdependence on each other in times of need, marriage within the culture.  They belonged intensely to each other. And despite breaking all the dietary rules for cardiovascular health they had outstanding heart health, no crime and no requests for welfare assistance. They belonged intensely to each other and had a way of life that protected that belonging.  As one author pithily nailed it: “In short, Rosetans were nourished by people.”

As time went on, the more American they became, the more Rosetans’s health resembled the rest of the country.  Said differently, the less they belonged to each other the more their bodies revealed the stress. 

For both poor and rich the secret of a good life is the same:  base life on the important relationships of family and community rather than on “the task”.   The pursuit of close relationships yields plenty of tasks — the Rosetans of Pennsylvania worked harder and longer than did their neighboring towns; but the modern way of the pursuit of tasks for the goods they give (grades, degrees, fitness, income, property) does not yield close relationships.  To paraphrase a sacred text “Seek first the kingdom of closeness and all these other things will be added unto you.”

Traditional Italian life and Spanish life used to be quite similar in patterns of ‘people-belonging.” But modern Spain has made a Faustian bargain. Today, virtually all mothers, no matter their income level, return to work at month four.  Many deliberately avoid getting too attached to their newborn because they do not want to experience the wrenching anxiety that sudden separation will visit on them and their babies.  

What a Faustian bargain:  work for its own sake. Their household gods have certainly been replaced by a new religion.  Such a culture cannot replace itself. It is in a downward spiral. 

But maybe family love will be rediscovered by some divine intervention will intervene and let people discover close family again, especially in the newborn infant.  It certainly won’t be a government program.  

For the good of the child, the future of the world,

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.

Faux Belonging

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To belong deeply some others is man’s deepest need.  It lasts beyond death.

First and foremost children need to belong to both their parents and thrive most when those parents belong to each other and to their children. Then  life is good, no matter the material circumstances.

In this week’s findings we see, yet again, the negative relationship between cohabitation and belonging.  It is a major disruptor of marriage and a predictor of instability in marriage if one has had more than one sexual partner. These data are getting old now. By the mid 1980’s Larry Bumpass (U Wisconsin) and Jay Teachman (then U Maryland) began to put their finger this bad news.  Since then the work of many but especially Scott Stanley has unpacked what is happening even when cohabitation results in marriage: “sliding not deciding”.  

In the absence of a moral or cultural authority the data make little impact and people suffer, none more than the children of the cohabiting couple. Twenty-five years into the future these children in their turn are much more likely to repeat the pattern.

Cohabitation is faux belonging and helps build a faux society with more and more faux relationships. 

For the good of the child,

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.