child well-being

child well-being

Facebook, Privacy, and the Commoditization of Children

child well-being, children, culture, family, fathers, marriage, mothers, social media No comments


By MARRI Intern
Recently on Slate, author Amy Webb recounted the story of a friend who frequently posts pictures of her young daughter on Facebook. In her opinion, these digital memories are irreversibly “preventing [the daughter] from any hope of future anonymity.” In reaction to this modern way of public life, before Webb’s daughter was even born she and her husband created social media profiles and a Gmail account for their child. When she is old enough their daughter will have access to an online presence, if she so chooses. Now that their daughter has been born, they diligently monitor social media websites to ensure that none of their friends or relatives posts pictures or personal information about their child.
While Webb’s prerogative as a parent is not in question, she does raise an interesting (and rather concerning) question: what are parents doing to children’s futures by putting them in the public spotlight before they are conscious of the decision? In the past, baby pictures were kept at home in an album; today they are broadcast on the internet. Before modern technology, a person had to know the parents to be able to see a child’s pictures; now, depending on your internet privacy know-how, anyone can see them, including corporate face recognition software. There are babies and children on social media news feeds that users have never met and likely never will because they are the step-nephew-in-law of their college roommate’s best friend (or something like that). While there are cynical applications to remove babies from their news feeds, this is not the point. The point is that society has changed. Americans are increasingly willing to share private details of their lives in a public forum, sometimes with unfortunate negative consequences.
There are countless stories of parents finding pictures of their children being used for advertising, for fake online accounts or even for child pornography. Furthermore, many children born into this generation will have had an online presence since before they were born (think sonogram pictures). American parents have shifted from protecting their children’s privacy to publicly displaying their children. Sons and daughters have arguably become yet another possession that one may flaunt before neighbors. How many “likes” will I get if I post a picture of my child doing x? Look at my baby’s adorable new clothes! And on it goes. Even celebrities effectively place a dollar value on their children by selling the rights to their baby’s first pictures. Parents’ love for and adoration of their children is certainly not in question here, but are these parents devaluing their child by sharing him or her with the world?
Perhaps these parents could instead spend their efforts on become more actively involved in their children’s lives and education to ensure the best chance for their success. Click here for more information from MARRI on what involvement in your child’s life at a young age can mean for his or her development.

May I have this [politically-correct, gender-ambiguous, tolerance-driven] dance?

child well-being, culture, education, family, gender, single parents 1 comment
By Lindsay Smith, Intern
By now you have probably heard the story: a single mom felt her daughter was being excluded from a school function, and voilà, no more father-daughter dances or mother-son baseball games in Rhode Island’s Cranston school district.  According to the superintendent, these events violate gender discrimination laws.  This mom, this superintendent, these lawyers were probably just trying to prevent kids from getting hurt, at least we will give the benefit of the doubt to their motives.  However, I am all too concerned about what research reveals: banning events like these harms the entire student body. 
Parents are important. Not surprisingly, abundant research supports this truth, especially in education.  On average, children from intact married families earn higher test scores, have higher high school GPAs, are less likely to drop out of school, and have better behavior than their peers.  In addition, “adolescent children of single-parent families or stepfamilies reported that their parents had lower educational expectations for them, were less likely to monitor schoolwork, and supervised social activities less than the parents of children in intact biological families.”  Based on these findings, one can see parental involvement directly correlates with academic success.  
 
Sadly, Cranston’s ruling reduces parental involvement, which at its core is fruitful to the district.  Cranston removed events which promote positive interaction.   I have never been employed as a teacher, but I would imagine most educators are thankful for engaged and helpful parents.  While I am not a teacher, I was a student, and can verify that involved parents, whether my own or another child’s, positively impacted my classroom experience.    The student body benefits when parents invest in education, in the school, and in the school’s activities.  The mayor of Cranston summarizes these findings well when he said, “[The events] contribute to the well being of our children as a whole.”Fathers taking their daughters to a school dance is positive.  Mothers taking their sons to a school baseball game is good, not because it promotes a child’s exclusion, but because it encourages parental participation. 
I do believe every child should have the chance to benefit from these activities.  I do believe every child can have an equal opportunity to attend – not by minimizing the traditional family (gender roles included) but by promoting it.  I heard it said once, “The problem is not that we have too much of Christ in our marriage; it’s that we don’t have enough.”  The same principle applies here.  People are not excluded because there is too little family love but because there is not enough.  Let me put some concrete words to this theory. 
Growing up, both sets of my grandparents lived over 10 hours away.  It wasn’t practical for them to attend my school functions.  However, when it came time for “Grandparentslunch day” at my elementary school, our sweet, elderly neighbor or my friend’s grandmother would always show up to eat with me.  Would I have liked my biological grandparents to be there?  Absolutely, but that doesn’t negate the wonderful times I had with these women who sacrificed their time for me.  I felt special; I felt loved; I felt included.    I propose a better solution is not to eliminate the event, but rather to embrace the child.  Allow traditional families to show what love and support look like and invite a child whose mom or dad can’t attend, whatever the reason.  Surely there are fathers, grandfathers, uncles, mentors in this community who would gladly take this young girl to the dance.  I bet there are mothers, grandmothers, aunts, teachers, who would gladly take another boy to the baseball game with their family.  Support the family, and support these traditions not in spite of the students but for their betterment.  When the family is stronger, education is stronger, and that’s something that should make us all get up and dance. 

Self and the Single Parent: On Jessica Olien, Part II

child well-being, culture, family, Jessica Olien, marriage, religion, single parents No comments
By Julia Polese, Intern
 
The notion of singleness has been a hot topic lately. Articles discussing single motherhood, living alone, and remaining unmarried by choice reflect trending individualism in American culture. Jessica Olien’s article “I Want to Be My Kid’s Only Parent” sums up the surging solipsism well: “I can’t help but think that having a partner there with an equal stake in the matter would complicate the process.” Her dispassionate ode to single parenthood echoes Kate Bolick’s sentiments in “All the Single Ladies” from The Atlanticearlier this year, in which she discussed “the elevation of independence over coupling.” The individualism Alexis de Tocqueville prophesied as one of the most undesirable discontents of democracy in America is becoming manifest in not only in our local communities, but also in our families.
 
Andrew Delbanco, professor of American Studies at Columbia University, gave a series of lectures in 1998 entitled The Real American Dream: A Meditation on Hope. In these lectures, he discussed the American people’s diminution of hope: from worship of their God, to loyalty to a notion of the sacred nation-state, and, in the last fifty years, “to the vanishing point of self alone.” Despite this shrinking world, Delbanco claims contemporary culture is still haunted by an “unslacked craving for transcendence.” Even in the glorification of singleness and the “self alone,” the authors of these articles still betray a longing for devotion to something outside themselves. Olien ends her article by exalting her hypothetical progeny, saying she “could have men on the periphery, but [she] would place [her] child securely in the center.” Bolick extols the virtue of the community at Begijnhof, an apartment complex only for single women in the Netherlands. Both are enamored with their self-sufficiency, but betray a desire to devote themselves to something other.
 
MARRI’s 162 Reasons to Marry outlines some of the ways marriage can aid in answering this longing. Married women experience less psychological stress and enjoy more social support than their single or cohabiting peers, and their children report higher quality of life. These aspects of the intact married family present a way to ease the democratic citizen’s restlessness, connecting her to something transcendent and larger than herself when rightly ordered in relation to God and country. With this in mind, the home again becomes a “haven in a heartless world” and not a prison that only works to constrain one’s self-defined existence.

Twenty-Something Ladies: “It’s Okay” to Think Family!

child well-being, family, feminism, marriage, mothers, Phyllis Schlafly, women's health No comments
By MaryAnn McCabe, Intern
Planning for marriage and motherhood is not a societal norm for twenty-something ladies, nor is fatherhood in the immediate plans of most men. But this generation of young women needs to hear that it is more than okay to think about not only career, but their family. Our culture today attacks traditional femininity, but research supports support the benefits of marriage and motherhood, so why not consider that option while you are career planning? According to studies published here at the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, there are many reasons to be married. Married couples find their sexual relationship more satisfying than cohabiters do. Married women are healthier than never-married, divorced, and separated women. Children in intact married families enjoy more emotional and behavioral well-being than children in cohabiting or single-mother families. Staying married results in men and women looking younger. Those raised in an intact family are likely to consider themselves “very” happy” than those raised in non-intact families. The positive outcomes from choosing marriage and motherhood are astounding.
Hopefully, most young adults are thinking about their future. In order to have a stable and secure home, one must build a solid foundation. Tenacious and driven women may have thought of graduate school, law school, medical school, and/or possibly owning a business. As you start to lay the foundation you may start to think, “By the time I am done with law school I will be twenty-six.” Then a second thought may possibly pop up: “It will take a good couple of years of late nights toiling at a law firm as an entry-level associate in order to become a mid-level or higher associate. Making partner can take up to nine years. I’ll be roughly thirty-five before I can even consider a spouse or child.”
Another consideration a woman must make is the staggering amount of debt she will possess. A law degree or a medical degree costs as much a house. In essence, it is a mortgage before having an actual mortgage. According to the National Student Loan Surveys, “fields of study with the highest levels of borrowing include law students, who are 4% of the NASLS population, but 17% of the borrowers with debt greater than $30,000; medical students are 15% of the survey, but 26% percent of those with debt over $30,000.  A total of 74% of borrowers with debt above $30,000 went to graduate/professional school.” Those with professional education feel most burdened, and women perceived their debt to be a bigger problem than men do. More than 80% of bankruptcy attorneys surveyed by the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys reported a “major” jump in student loan borrowers seeking help. These are the issues that can cause women to put off marriage. Education is by no means a bad thing, but it’s important to note its cost, both in dollars and in time.
In The Flipside of Feminism, Phyllis Schlafly and Suzanne Venker share their stories, telling young women today that “it’s ok” to factor family into future plans — you should! Schlafly and Venker shed some light onto the fact that it is hard to juggle it all, but we have one life to live, so how do you want to live it?

162 Reasons to Marry

child well-being, cohabitation, crime, divorce, domestic violence, education, family, MARRI, marriage, men's health, poverty, religion, women's health No comments
By Anna Dorminey, Staff
We are excited to present 162 Reasons to Marry, a (by no means comprehensive) list of the benefits and reasons for marriage.

Good marriages are the bedrock of strong societies. All other relationships in society stem from the father-mother relationship, and these other relationships thrive most if that father-mother relationship is an intimate, closed husband-wife relationship. Our nation depends on good marriages to yield strong revenues, good health, low crime, high education, and high human capital

Here are a few selections from “162 Reasons to Marry”:

4. Those from an intact family are more likely to be happily married.

6. Those from intact families are less likely to divorce. 

27. Married men and women report the most sexual pleasure and fulfillment. 

33. Adults who grew up in an intact married family are more likely than adults from non-intact family structures to attend religious services at least monthly. 

37. Children of married parents are more engaged in school than children from all other family structures.

48. Adolescents from intact married families are less like to be suspended, expelled, or delinquent, or to experience school problems than children from other family structures. 

69. The married family is less likely to be poor than any other family structure. 

79. Married men are less likely to commit crimes. 

93. Married women are less likely to be abused by their husband than cohabiting women are to be abused by their partner.

99. Children in intact married families suffer less child abuse than children from any other family structure.

104. Married people are more likely to report better health, a difference that holds for the poor and for minorities.

119. Married men and women have higher survival rates after being diagnosed with cancer.  

126. Married people have lower mortality rates, including lower risk of death from accidents, disease, and self-inflicted injuries.

132. Married women have significantly fewer abortions than unmarried women. 

149. Married people are least likely to commit suicide.

We’ve found 162 reasons to marry — what can you add to the list?

What Hath the Hedge Fund to Do with the Household?

child well-being, divorce, economics, family, feminism, marriage, social institutions, Wendell Berry No comments
By Julia Polese, Intern
Slate.com recently featured an article provocatively titled: “Help America: Get Divorced!” Author Michael Yglesias cites federal data to show that divorce rates have been falling as the economic recession continues. He writes that “the United States fell from 3.6 divorces per 1,000 Americans in 2007 to 3.5 divorces per 1,000 in 2008 to 3.4 divorces per 1,000 Americans in 2009.” As fewer couples are getting divorced – presumably because of the tremendous cost associated with the dissolution of a household – fewer new households are being formed, so fewer goods are being consumed. He concludes rather spuriously that one solution to the current recession is for more Americans to get divorced. He writes: “That’s why I, at least, will be rooting for more marriages to fail in 2012.” Yikes.
Setting aside the “correlation vs. causation” alarm bells triggered by his conclusion, Yglesias’s view of marriage as a purely economic good – he concedes that a married couple living together is “more efficient” than two people living alone – misses the “softer” benefits of the intact married family. While MARRI has shown that the family has a huge positive impact on the American economy in productive value alone and a recent estimation of an equivalent salary for a homemaker’s services was found to be almost $100,000, the all-encompassing picture of a productive household is not only measured in dollars and cents. In his essay “Feminism, the Body, and the Machine,” agrarian author Wendell Berry writes about how the consumerist anti-ideal of marriage has caused a separation between men and women, husbands and wives. Traced to the devaluation of care for hearth and home for both men and women, the culture’s profound individualism disdains the value of a productive household and looks only to the ways the disconnected members of the family can compete against each other on the market as worthwhile. Now, working inside the home generates the question “But what do you do?” Berry writes: “By this [feminists] invariably mean that there is something better to do than to make one’s marriage and household, and by better they invariably mean ‘employment outside the home.’”
This attitude, Berry argues, removes a sense of belonging from the marriage, for both husband and wife and their children. MARRI’s research has shown that a sense of belonging is essential to a child’s success in school, financial well-being, and avoidance of out-of-wedlock births.  Children from intact families are less likely to get expelled or suspended from school or commit theft and are, in general, more socially developed. Divorce harms the next generation in manifold ways. The family’s functioning as a household, not simply as disparate silos of production for the national economy, has profound implications for local community and society at large. An ordered oikos means a more harmonious polis.
Yglesias sees the tenuous link between divorce and an improving economy as something worth pursuing, but he does not consider the long term implications for a breakdown in society beginning at its most basic level: the family economy. A generation of limited connectedness will not aid an ailing economy. Perhaps what the national economy needs is a new “romance of thrift” and knowledge of the true micro-economy, as G.K. Chesterton lauded, found in the houses on Main Street, not the banks on Wall Street. This vision is inextricably linked to the intact married family in which, Berry writes, “‘mine’ is not so powerful or necessary a pronoun as ‘ours.’”

Football, Fatherhood, and Religion

child well-being, family, fathers, MARRI, marriage, religion No comments
By MARRI Interns
 
The joy caused by the advent of the Super Bowl this Sunday quickly transforms into melancholy for many men who acknowledge with lamentation that the Super Bowl marks the termination of football season. How ought those men to spend those superfluous hours on Sunday that were previously occupied with football? A trove of social science research suggests quite strongly that it might be best for them, for their marriage, and for their children to head to church.
A number of prominent Evangelical leaders are rediscovering the importance of appealing to men to return to involvement in the church. Dr. John Piper’s 2012 Pastors Conference is entitled “God, Manhood, and Ministry: Building Men for the Body of Christ.” Pastor Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church of Seattle has long been an ardent advocate of masculine maturity exemplified through religious attendance and participation.
Perhaps this is all of no importance. Perhaps it is just another attempt by several pastors to fill their pews. Or perhaps these men are on to something far more significant about the nature and benefits of male participation in the life of the church. And indeed, it is this latter proposition that seems to be vindicated by much of the social science research that MARRI and others are doing. The social science bears out that it is not only ministry leaders who have reason to champion male reengagement with the church; male church attendance correlates with significant benefits for society as a whole, since it contributes to the stability of the family and the success of children.
These societal benefits are observed by a large number of researchers, among whom are W. Bradford Wilcox, whose book “Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands” (U Chicago Press, 2004) treats this subject in great detail. Constraining his research only to a comparison between Conservative Protestants, Mainline Protestants, and fathers with no religious affiliation, Wilcox presents detailed evidence showing that Conservative Protestants are more likely to be involved fathers and loving husbands than are those of no religious affiliation at all: 

Conservative Protestant married men with children are consistently more active and expressive with their children than unaffiliated men and are often more engaged with their children than mainline Protestant fathers. Furthermore, conservative Protestant family men are more likely than unaffiliated men to do positive emotion work in their marriages and are more consistently engaged emotionally in their marriages than mainline men. So the charges that conservative Protestantism fosters authoritarian and other stereotypical displays of masculinity among its family are overdrawn. [emphasis added]

Dr. Wilcox’s research shows that the impact of religion on family life is significant and well worth detailed study. That is why, in a forthcoming paper on the Effects of Religion on Marriage, MARRI presents a comprehensive picture of the benefits for marriage that accrue when partners participate in religious activity (particularly joint weekly worship). The forthcoming paper analyzes the effects of religion on marriage from a number of angles. MARRI’s Mapping America products virtually unanimously support the assertion that religion strengthens marriage in a number of significant and variegated ways.

So men, for the sake of your wife and your children, go to church this Sunday. Besides, unless your pastor is particularly long-winded, you’ll have plenty of time before the Super Bowl starts.

What’s So Wrong with Polygamy?

child well-being, children, crime, culture, family, fathers, human capital, marriage, monogamy, news, polygamy, social institutions, women No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

Libby Copeland writes for Slate on the effects of polygamy and monogamous marriage on crime in “Is Polygamy Really So Awful?” While we disagree with Ms. Copeland’s conclusion (that the best form of union for a society is best not because it is moral, but because it “works”), the research she references in her piece is extremely interesting. Read along:

History suggests that [plural marriage] is [harmful]. A new study out of the University of British Columbia documents how societies have systematically evolved away from polygamy because of the social problems it causes. The Canadian researchers are really talking about polygyny, which is the term for one man with multiple wives, and which is by far the most common expression of polygamy. Women are usually thought of as the primary victims of polygynous marriages, but as cultural anthropologist Joe Henrich documents, the institution also causes problems for the young, low-status males denied wives by older, wealthy men who have hoarded all the women. And those young men create problems for everybody.

“Monogamous marriage reduces crime,” Henrich and colleagues write, pulling together studies showing that polygynous societies create large numbers of unmarried men, whose presence is correlated with increased rates of rape, theft, murder, and substance abuse. According to Henrich, the problem with unmarried men appears to come primarily from their lack of investment in family life and in children. Young men without futures tend to engage in riskier behaviors because they have less to lose. And, too, they may engage in certain crimes to get wives—stealing to amass enough wealth to attract women, or kidnapping other men’s wives.

Ms. Copeland also addresses the effects polygamy produces for individual men, women, and children. These effects are consistently negative:

That polygyny is bad for women is not necessarily intuitive. As economist Robert H. Frank has pointed outwomen in polygynist marriages should have more power because they’re in greater demand, and men should wind up changing more diapers. But historically, polygamy has proved to be yet another setup that [harms] the XX set. Because there are never enough of them to go around, they wind up being married off younger. Brothers and fathers, realizing how valuable their female relations are, tend to control them more. And, as one would expect, polygynous households foster jealousy and conflict among co-wives. Ethnographic surveys of 69 polygamous cultures “reveals no case where co-wife relations could be described as harmonious,” Henrich writes, with what must be a good dose of understatement.

Children, too, appear to suffer in polygamous cultures. Henrich examines a study comparing 19th-century Mormon households, 45 of them headed by wealthy men, generally with multiple wives, and 45 headed by poorer men, generally with one wife each. What’s surprising is that the children of the poorer men actually fared better, proving more likely to survive to age 15. Granted, this is a small study, but it’s consistent with other studies, including one from Africa showing that the children of monogamous households tend to do better than those from polygynous households in the same communities. Why? Some scholars suspect that polygyny may discourage paternal investment. Men with lots of children and wives are spread too thin, and to make things worse, they’re compiling resources to attract their next wives instead of using it on their existing families.

For more on the benefits of intact, monogamous marriage for society and individuals, visit www.marri.us.

Belonging and Rejection, State by State

child well-being, family, MARRI, marriage, social institutions, social policy No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

We at MARRI have broken down the data from the Second Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection by state, and are pleased to present you with the Index of Family Belonging and Rejection: State by State (2011).

From State by State:

This version of the Index is a breakdown, state by state, of the data published in that 2011 Index. Each page compares individual state performance on various child outcomes (high school graduation rate, eighth grade NAEP reading scores, child poverty, and births to unmarried teenagers). This permits the comparison of each state to the weakest and strongest states in each outcome category. Because social policy is executed at the state level, a breakdown of this data state by state is natural and fitting.

We hope that this version of the Index will be informative to both state legislators and citizens.

How Divorce Hurts Children

child well-being, crime, divorce, education, family, MARRI, marriage, religion No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

MARRI’s latest Research Synthesis paper, The Effects of Divorce on Children, discusses the myriad ways in which divorce directly and indirectly hurts children.

Each year, over a million American children suffer the divorce of their parents. Divorce causes irreparable harm to all involved, but most especially to the children. Though it might be shown to benefit some individuals in some individual cases, over all it causes a temporary decrease in an individual’s quality of life and puts some “on a downward trajectory from which they might never fully recover.”[1]

The paper discusses divorce’s effects across six categories:

· Family: The parent-child relationship is weakened, and children’s perception of their ability (as well as their actual ability) to develop and commit to strong, healthy romantic relationships is damaged.

· Religious practice: Divorce diminishes the frequency of worship of God and recourse to Him in prayer.

· Education: Children’s learning capacity and educational attainment are both diminished.

· The marketplace: Household income falls and children’s individual earning capacity is cut deeply.

· Government: Divorce significantly increases crime, abuse and neglect, drug use, and the costs of compensating government services.

· Health and well-being: Divorce weakens children’s health and longevity. It also increases behavioral, emotional, and psychiatric risks, including even suicide.