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divorce

Family Disruption and Child Wellbeing

Tags: , , , , child well-being, children, depression, divorce, family, intact family, MARRI, marriage, Pat Fagan, social policy, youth No comments

The most comprehensive overview of the effects of divorce on children until then was a 2012 synthesis paper I wrote with Aaron Churchill. For this blog I composed a short review of the more recent literature on divorce using the National Institute of Health’s Library and database. The simplified results confirm and extend the findings of the 2012 paper:

Parental disruption of the family leads to increased levels and diverse forms of depression (very noticeably in China) and anxiety, earlier death and serious illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, increased rates of cancer and stroke, and other somatic symptoms, such as atopic dermatitis. Ironically, the divorce of parents also decreases the likelihood of taking the medicine needed to treat personal illness and increases additional poor health behaviors (smoking, alcohol use [including early drinking], and unhealthy eating [obesity]). These effects, especially depression, persist into adulthood for offspring of divorced parents. For children who are already depressed (linked likely to family unhappiness) depression deepens with the divorce of parents and episodes of serious depression become more frequent and sometimes morph into bipolar depression.

When parents divorce, a child’s world is shattered. For some children it is a slow disintegration. For others it is cataclysmic in its suddenness.  The depth of the wounds is much the same, though the variety of wounds is myriad and, though patterns abound, each wound is unique and idiosyncratic in its effects on the mind, heart and soul of each child, even when a grown adult.

With divorce, the very center of the child’s universe has imploded. Yes, the child has to pick up the pieces and get on with life,  but they are pieces, a poor substitute for a wonderful whole. If the marriage of parents is the rich soil in which children thrive, then divorce leads them to a perpetual depletion diet.  The rich nutrition of love and unity is bleached out of their food. Different events — a visit to a friend’s home, a scene in a movie, a line in a song — reminds them all the time that they no longer eat steak every day but rather a thinner soup that they just have to get used to. No matter how much divorced parents try they cannot deny their rejection of each other, nor the wounds that rejection causes: They have made their child’s universe crooked. Granted in many cases it is one parent who did the shattering.  Given the effects on his or her children such a person has become evil by doing so great an evil. Hard words?  Just read the effects above in the italicized paragraph again (and they are only partial; for the full list read the full paper).

As laws have shifted away from protecting citizens from harm, by forbidding evils and punishing wrongs, legislators have turned instead to “policy making”. This shift really took off with the sexual revolution and the divorce revolution. The more they aided and abetted the storm (passing no-fault divorce laws), the more effort they have to put into minimizing the damage: This is much of “social policy.”

It is disheartening to read research articles on the effects of divorce on children. The vast majority of studies encourage social policy to reduce the damage done to children by divorce.  Virtually nowhere is there a push for efforts to save couples from divorce, to rebuilding broken marriages or even (especially) those on the rocks. The mantra instead is one of conflict reduction… It is better that the children live in a home with less turmoil.  No one talks of a rebuilt home, a rebuilt marriage.

I know a man who is one of the great healers of “bad marriages”.  He may be  the greatest.  At one time he was working in a family court (a divorce court) in a large Mid-Western city. After he had demonstrated his skill by resolving  some awful relationships the judges gave him access to those waiting for their day in the divorce court. Soon, about half the divorce-seeking couples were going away HAPPILY reconciled. But that cut into the incomes of their divorce lawyers. In response, the divorce lawyers’ lobby got rid of him by having the legislature threaten to significantly cut the family-court’s budget. There is a special place in hell for the lawyers who pulled that off, and also for those behind the no-fault divorce revolution (read Jane Anderson’s 2014 on the effects of divorce if you think that too strong).

Next week I will delve into the effects (visible in the Add Health data) of divorce on boys. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the social science literature: The divorce of parents plus the worship of God turns boys into sexual predators.  

After this delving into the dark side, I feel like a good shower and a good drink, or something even better to revive the heart.

Sex and the Triple Crisis in Family, Church and State.

Tags: Census data, children, cohabitation, culture, divorce, family, family structure, fathers, feminism, feminists, MARRI, marriage, Pat Fagan, poverty, Prayer, religion, reproductive technology, social institutions, social science, Uncategorized, women, women's health, worship 1 comment

(With apologies for the length.) As Russell Hittinger wrote earlier this year in First Things, there are three primary societies to which people most naturally belong: Our family, our religious community (church, synagogue, mosque, or temple or meeting house), and our political community (nation or state). He emphasized that all three, for the first time in history, are in deep crisis. In the past when there was a crisis in one, or even in two, the other(s) corrected it.

The simultaneous crisis today in each of the three has the same cause: the sexual gone wild. The fallout within the family is now boringly evident: Most first births out of wedlock, minority of children reaching adulthood without their biological parents married, a norm of multiple sexual partners prior to marriage — even for those who worship God weekly, cohabitation prior to marriage, abortion and divorce.

The crisis in the church is related to sex as well, starting historically, with the Lambeth Conference in 1930, during which the-up-until-then universal teaching among all Christian denominations was ruptured by the acceptance of contraception in grave circumstances for the protection of the life and health of the mother, which — hardly had the ink dried on the decree — immediately morphed into (without debate) the commonly accepted moral doctrine across Protestant denominations, of the use of contraception to limit family size. By 1950 this was a deeply entrenched pattern. By the 1960’s the crisis on the same erupted in the Catholic Church with a division for many, at almost all levels of the church (but not at the top) between praxis and doctrine.

The children born to all these contracepting parents saw no logical nor practical reason to contain contraception within marriage and, taking it outside, gave us the sexual revolution of the 1960s. That revolution was not only a sexual revolution, but fostered by the cultural Marxists, was a revolution against “authority.” Many churches complied with the zeitgeist, changing, first praxis and then doctrine on divorce, abortion, and cohabitation. With the logical dominoes falling, homosexual sex had to be, and was, logically accepted. Now with multiple religious-moral options, more and more people moved their religious affiliation to less demanding denominations, ceased worshiping frequently while their children ceased worshiping at all.

The emerging recreational sex, naturally led to an abandonment of the worship of God by young adults, and to a loss of attachment to any religious community. It also resulted in the steady erosion of marriage. Thus, the crisis within the family and within religion, are the same: The sexual.

That there is a crisis in the polis – – – the political community of which we are all members – – – is now obvious in the overt refusal of cooperation by the more revolutionary party in Congress. One might say it is akin to a civil war though confined — for the present — to the realm of words (and legal actions). Civil discourse is almost impossible to find. This breakdown is most evident in the debate over the nomination of judges to the Supreme Court and to the Appellate Courts. But this non-cooperation is evident in other areas that impinge on matters sexual, most evidently so, in the issue of abortion but now even at the highest court levels of legal action in matters related to homosexuality. The most publicly forthright, organized display in Congress of a refusal to seek even minimal political cooperation was the behavior of liberal female congressmen and senators during the incumbent president’s First State of the Union speech shortly after his election. These women set themselves apart and aside by an ostentatious show of uniform dress code — white coats — so as to be visible to the nation on television, as pointedly flaunting their refusal of minimal respect when all strive to maintain some semblance of national unity. The day prior, this refusal was presaged in “The Women’s March” whose iconic headgear vulgarly forced all to contemplate the politics of rebellious sex — again with a dress code — this time, not white coats but, pink “vulva hats”.

Any part of Washington that impinges on the sexual has become a nasty place to work, nowhere more than at the Office of Population Affairs at Health and Human Services. The office that runs the family planning/sexual programs of the government. God help anyone who works there who does not comply in their minds and hearts with the radical sexual agenda. They are under intense constant scrutiny and harassment.

In sum, nothing is more contentious at universities, in corporate boardrooms, in bureaucracies, in courts, and in legislatures than the appearance of any item that impinges on the sexual. Everywhere, pollical division and non-cooperation divides the polis.

Why has there never been a crisis in all three societies ever before in history? Never before have so many in powerful places been so insane on matters of sex, family, love between fathers and mothers, parents and children.

Sex, life, love, marriage, children and God are all so intimately linked or decoupled in the thriving of man or in his debilitation, that all functional civilizations and cultures — all — have put tremendous energy, throughout all their institutions, into bringing as much harmony on the society-dependent, foundational issues. In our day instead, we have many in positions of leadership throughout the major institutions (family, church, school, marketplace and government) devoted to deliberately increasing the discord on these issues. A society so divided on these fundamentals cannot stand, as the elite leaders of this revolt understand very well, and have for decades as they worked to this point.

As always, it is the poor who suffer most, and who will suffer even more. For all family life today is much costlier, less productive and less enjoyable than it should be, but especially so for the poor — even as they are used and show-cased as victims by the same elite leaders of the revolt.

Our national fertility — a big sexual issue — is far removed from that of a well-functioning society. For instance, if were no abortions there would not be a Social Security financial crisis today, nor a looming Medicare crisis. Over the next 10 years these programs will gradually shrivel, if not suddenly implode (economists seem to lean towards implosion, barring some global reform in global currency standards). The contraction has already begun as the elderly on Medicare can tell you. And, they have already been flagged that less will be forthcoming and that they must become accustomed to picking up more of the tab (which they had pre-payed).

More than most nations throughout history, we were blessed with the freedom to choose, but we were never free to choose the consequences. Consequences are built into the nature of the choice made, into the sexual and relational nature of man, as the demographics of America — Mapping America — repeatedly illustrates.

To thrive man needs two great loves: The love of his closest neighbor (spouse, and children— sexual love in its fullest expression) and the love of God (minimally expressed in weekly worship).

Is a crisis correction possible?

Of the three societies that we all occupy, the one with the capacity for quickest reform is the religious. Despite all its bad press, some of it, and more to come, no doubt, well deserved — but by no means all, particularly the latest — a close observer will notice the pace of reform within the Catholic Church in this country. It has been gathering steam, not in a way that makes front-page headlines, but more hidden in its deeper reaches. Hopefully the same currents, driven by the same issues (dysfunctional sexuality and its fallouts), are bringing about similar reform within other denominations and faiths.

Addressing the issue of church reform, John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America, in a recent letter to the university community, quoted St Catherine of Sienna, who was the major stimulus for a reform at another time of deep crisis: “Eliminate the stink of the ministers of the Holy Church. Pull out the stinking flowers and plant scented plants, virtuous men that fear God.”

The road ahead: First the reform of the religious institutions leading in turn to the reform of marriage and the family (all freely undertaken by free adults), which reformed over time, will alter our political behaviors and lead to a reform of the body politic.

The sooner the better for every child yet to be born, every one of whom will thrive or wilt depending on how much a diet of the two great loves he is fed.

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.

Director of MARRI

God, Fertility, and Hope for the Future.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , children, culture, divorce, family, MARRI, marriage, religion, Uncategorized No comments

Last week, The Upshot (New York Times) reported that women are having less children than they would like, mainly because of the worries illustrated below.

Despite the fact that we live in the biggest, most prosperous nation ever in history, our women are anxious and fearful about having children. Given their psychological and family experiences this is understandable: Most young women (and men) today come from broken families. They are afraid to take the risk of a “big exploration trip into the unknown” together. Unlike Columbus setting sail into unchartered waters, they stay onshore fearful of probable storms and occasional bad weather.

But those who worship God weekly see life differently. They are more likely to take the risk and to set sail. Though, unlike Columbus, they don’t discover new continents — they make them.

John Mueller of The Ethics and Public Policy Institute found that, globally, across religions and cultures, women who worship weekly have more than twice as many children as those who never worship.

Mueller reasons: “Personal gift of time and resources involved in worship is closely and systematically associated with the personal gift of having children for their own sake rather than for the pleasure and utility of the parents.”

MARRI graphs further illustrate the influence of belief in God on related issues: on the meaning and importance of having children, on happiness, and on fears and anxieties during intercourse.

Those who worship frequently value having children more those who do not practice.

National data shows intact married couples that worship frequently are happiest.

National data indicates that intact families who worship weekly are less anxious and worried during intercourse.

The Upshot team at the New York Times repeatedly does “almost-great” work . Had they included religious worship question and marital status question they would see a dramatically different picture. The national averages would be the same but who is afraid and who is ready to plunge forward would stand out.

 

 

With an eye to the hand that could rock the cradle and give us the world,

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.

Director of the MARRI Project

Catholic University of America

Every Society Begins with Sex

children, culture, divorce, family, MARRI, marriage, religion No comments

If you want to collapse a society burrow down to the sexual and begin the disintegration there. During the 1950’s and 1960’s the Frankfurt School was gradually gaining the insights that would permit this deconstruction (especially in the work of Shulamith Firestone and Kate Millett). This resulted in what can only be described as a diabolical agenda, nowhere made more explicit than in the opening ”litany” of the weekly meetings of the founders of the National Organization of Women. Their bottom line: separate the man, the father, from the family. It took them two generations (50 years), but they have succeeded: 54% of children by age 17 are without their father in their home.

At much the same time another revolution, this time a good one, was going on at the University of Krakow in Poland, where a young professor of philosophy, Karol Wojtyla was building the insights that eventually resulted in the “Theology of the Body”, and along the way was the major contributor to Pope Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” laying out the positive path forward as well as prophesying the destruction inherent in the use of contraception.

Though many fathers prevail in marriage, “the pill” has gradually undermined their position in the family, especially as their children mature into active sexual beings. Mark Regnerus’s study, Cheap Sex, summarized in his recent WSJ op-ed, delineates the profound interior moral change in men but also in women, each paying its different half of the price-tag.

In the 1960s we began to perfect the separation of children from sex. This caused great debate across religions and across the globe. Some religious leaders and philosophers disagree with the separation unworn of the evil consequences. But everywhere there was either capitulation or deep divide. Most religions and religious leaders selected capitulation. The most notable holdout though by no means the only holdout, is the official teaching of the Catholic Church. However even there teaching the audible word is never to be heard. All seem to be struck dumb. There are two sacramental vocations in Christianity: the priesthood and marriage. As the second is gutted, the first looks on silently. Though the Little Sisters of the Poor stood up against the brilliant Frankfurt School President Obama, the local parish priest cannot stand up against those in his flock who disagree with the Church, and insist on their “new moral theology” that fuses the reception of Christ into their body in the Eucharist, even as they use that same body of theirs to say “non serviam” to their vocation (their calling from the same God) to be life-givers.

So, the Marxist-Feminist revolution and the life affirming counter-revolution are in a fight to the death for the family, for marriage, for children and for fatherhood.

As long as the sexual intercourse of male and female separates its two key components — mutual orgasmic pleasure of the highest kind in creation (the unitive aspect of sexual intercourse)—from the potential generation of new life (the generative aspect of sexual intercourse that gives mankind the future, the child)—the sidelining of the average male is guaranteed.

The resulting downward slide into a chaos demands holding society together through deep-state anomic regulation, which gradually displaces, then banishes the humanity of the normal health-giving caress of a morally integrated culture, the universal mode of social cohesion of all peoples and civilizations throughout history. Instead we have increasingly the broken family, the broken child, the broken heart, the broken society — all achieved by separating the father from his children. The crowning insult to it all: “patriarchy” (by Marxist-feminist definition, that form of the family where the father is present), is now a forbidden word in the public, politically correct, lexicon.

Consider, however, Rene Girard’s crowning achievement, the lecture, “How does Satan cast out Satan?” (I don’t think I have ever listened to any other lecture more than twice but this I listened to over fifty times — it is so densely rich in insights). Bishop Robert Barron thinks Girard will eventually be a Father (not a Doctor) of the Church. Girard describes Christ’s mission as leading all of humanity back to God the Father, but Satan — his ever-present competitor throughout the Gospels— in darkest envy, works always to become the new “Father” who displaces the Eternal Father: “that Father from Whom all fatherhood takes its title and derives its name.” What a crowning achievement for him that today even good folk today are afraid to use the word “patriarch”.

It is time to make the title of patriarch a great vision for young men: That they grow old with their married children around them and their grandchildren happy in the marriages of their parents. That is the normal vocation of every man and woman.

A couple of weeks ago we returned after a hiatus of five or six weeks and I promised an explanation. Steeped in the sociological and demographic data on marriage, family and children I was overwhelmed by the disastrous picture which had been unfolding before me for years and felt the need to figure a way forward out of the mess deliberately created by people bent on the destruction of the family and of religion.

As already stated, the most disastrous of all developments in millennia has been the joining of cultural Marxism (the Frankfurt school and the Gramsci school of thought) with modern feminist (the National Organization of Women and the many allied organizations it has given birth to).

They have been so successful that today their allies even include CEOs of even the biggest corporations in the world: Google, Facebook, Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates. They all contribute massively to movements and programs that dismantle families and marriages (some maybe unwittingly – I think especially of the Gates and the Zukerbergs). Together these movements (cultural Marxism and feminism) quickly gained toeholds that were expanded into dominance in certain schools in Columbia University and the State Department and expanded out from there to gain the control they now have many institutions PARTICULARLY those involved in culturally shaping relationships between people (schools, law schools, judiciaries, journalism schools and major media). These are stark realities, but they fulfil the collapse from within, that Lenin demanded of the Frankfurt school. This is the reality we live in today.

So, what is to be done in this situation? Simple: Go on offense, but quietly, for the opposition is powerful and vindictive. But reality is on the side of patriarchy (again, that form of the family where the father is present, the intact family).

The movements and institutions mentioned are flying in the face of the data, and contradicting universal, observable, realities. The two great loves — of God and neighbor — make the environment in which man has always thrived. In their absence (broken and unformed marriage and falling rates of worship of God) man wilts and breaks down.

The antidotes are myriad but the task is as simple as its animating principle: Grow the good! Grow the wheat, forget about pulling up the weeds. First shore up and give confidence to those who are on the right track: Married fathers (present patriarchs) –who cannot exist without married mothers— then pastors, teachers and doctors. Simultaneously bring back the broken… the constant cry of Pope Francis. These souls know the reality of the suffering caused by the breakdown of marriage and the abandonment of prayer and worship. But many of them feel ashamed, as the recent work of Brad Wilcox and Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University is making clear. But such marginalized people have always been fertile ground for revolutions (for good or evil).

Just as men were targeted by these movements, so too men will be significant leaders in rebuilding the good, particularly leading in rebuilding the traditional family, the intact married family, the patriarchal family. Patriarch is a good term…! Abraham was a patriarch. The ultimate patriarch is God the Father, from whom all fatherhood flows. On earth, the patriarchal family is the safest place for women and for children. This is the very opposite to what feminist claim. It is also the place where women and children thrive most — and men also. It is the place of the greatest educational output, the greatest financial output, the greatest contribution to the common good, the greatest likelihood to worship God, and the least troublesome to government, while it is the greatest contributor to the tax base of the whole country. It is that form of the family which most deserves to be protected, preserved and promulgated.

More anon.

For the good of the child, the future of society,

Pat Fagan

Income Mobility

community, crime, divorce, economic well-being, environment, family structure, income, Income mobility 1 comment

Income mobility has been in the public discourse of late and is informed by some of the best scholarship ever done.  However, even the best sometimes need a bit more: this time, attention to self-sacrificing love and dedication.

Income mobility, the movement of an individual or family into a different income quintile, is not always upwards.  For every new entrant “from below” into any of the upper quintiles, another who used to occupy that slot is bumped down.  There will always be equal proportions of people in each quintile and there will always be a bottom quintile.

The best recent work on income mobility has been done by Raj Chetty, formerly of Harvard and now at Stanford, and his formidable intervarsity team of analysts. They report that, on average, about 10% of the bottom quintile (about 1/50th of our population) move up into the top quintile by age 26.  For them, this is a phenomenal achievement.

Chetty finds, when looking at 26 year-olds, that about 26% of the top quintile is made up of young folk from the bottom two quintiles.  Interestingly, when looking at 30-year-olds, that proportion from the bottom quintile shrinks to about 22% as those who studied longer for graduate degrees or advanced skills enter the top quintile.  (Those pushed out would end up in the fourth quintile — still quite desirable.)

Our real concern is not who gets displaced from the top, or even what happens in the middle, but what happens at the bottom, especially what happens to children at the bottom of the bottom:  the bottom 2 percent.  This bottom fiftieth is  defined by the neighborhood they are condemned, by budget, to live in.  From many studies we know they likely live in a disordered neighborhood with frequent crime, violence, abuse and low-quality schools.  The family structure that yields the disorder of the neighborhood  is the absence of marriage: the unmarried single mother, the absent father and the live-in boyfriend, who is often not the first, nor the last  The social disorder characteristic of these neighborhoods has its deepest roots in the multigenerational disorder of the mother/father relationship, leading to early out of wedlock births as teens imitate what they see.

Chetty et al., based on the evidence, recommend voucher assistance to help those who want to move to better neighborhoods to avoid the bad example around them.  But from among families who stay stuck, it is the children with imagination and grit who make it out.  Their ambition is likely kindled by a parent, relative, teacher, coach,  pastor, a volunteer from  Big Brothers or Big Sisters, but almost always by someone who sacrifices, if not their whole life (as many poor parents do) at least a portion of their time to help that child make it to the next step.  Their gift of time and attention enables motivates the effort to move. This form of love makes the difference: not the puppy love of romance but the tough love of sacrifice.  This is essential to Christianity. Though this self-sacrificing love is not confined to Christians, it has shined there the most.

Dagger John” Hughes, an Irish immigrant who started off as a garden-laborer in Pennsylvania and ended up as Archbishop of New York in the 1850’s, was dedicated to the lowest of the low at that time: the Irish poor who inhabited Lower Manhattan.  By the 1880’s the New York Times would refer to them as the “straight-laced” Irish.  They had become the policemen, teachers, and nurses of New York City.  Hughes pulled off this mobility miracle by attracting hundreds of celibate helpers (religious orders) who gave their lives to helping these poor Irish.  In modern history many Christian leaders have inspired thousands to dedicate  themselves to the poor of big cities:  Catherine and William Booth (Salvation Army, London); Frederic Ozanam (Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Paris) and of course, Mother Theresa of Calcutta.

While Raj Chetty’s work shows that helping the poor move to better neighborhoods helps them climb upwards, those stuck at the bottom of the bottom will need something more: the sort of help that demands sacrifice and committed relationship, the kind that Booth, Ozanam, and Mother Theresa all gave.

This form of love is beyond policy.  For income and vouchers, one can go to government, but not for self-sacrificing love.

We need this “idea correction” — better labeled an “idea addition” — to help those at the very bottom.  They need one-on-one self-sacrificing dedication from those prepared to give it.   Without that the bottom of the bottom will stay stuck, but with it we have a very different America, one we all will like a lot more.

 

With an eye to the child, the future of America,

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.
Director of the MARRI Project
Catholic University of America

Prenuptials

divorce, happiness, marriage No comments

“Divorce? Never. Murder? Maybe.”    So said an Irish wife in 1986 when Ireland was debating divorce law.  Divorce was unthinkable for her generation, particularly for Catholics.  “Prenups” were a waste of time and thought.  Today is very different – even for devout Christians and for couples who seem to have everything going for them.  No one has the culture “going for them”.

Today’s culture accepts pornography, divorce, cohabitation, one-night-stands, deliberate single-parenthood, materialism, and pleasure-seeking.  (Just yesterday in Union Station in Washington DC I saw a millennial wearing a cap that said “Sex, drugs and money.”)  American culture today rejects chastity, prayer and religious worship, the Ten Commandments, God, and even children.  Marriage thrives on the “flip side” of all these.

The prenuptial I propose is not about preserving wealth but preserving the marriage to come.  It is a vaccination against that divorce which will be a high temptation even for those who have good marriages.  Our toxic environment guarantees this.

There are issues a couple should clear up before saying “I do” because there are  marriage-destroying habits they may need to drop before they set out on their life-long expedition or else they will later find out they were never really “together”.

This prenuptial inoculation should be agreed to at least a year before the marriage so that there is time to “clean out the garbage” before the great day.  If the garbage does not get cleared out then better to call the wedding off than destroy the lives of their children with a divorce later on.

Here is the prenuptial to fill in and sign after discussing the contents.  This discussion itself will be a great eye-opener for many couples, even before they embark on fulfilling the terms.

OUR PRENUPTIAL

(Click here to Download)

 

Marriage preparation is much more than taking in ideas.  It involves starting to make the changes needed to build a good marriage.

Monogamy and Chastity

divorce, pre-marital sex, sexuality, social science No comments

By now, regular readers of Faith and Family Findings are familiar with the data on family structure and its impact on everything important to a functioning society.  On every outcome measured, for adults and children, those in an intact family do best on all the positive outcomes we desire for ourselves and our children (education, income, savings, health, longevity, happiness, sexual enjoyment, intergenerational support) and have the least incidence of all the negatives we hope never afflict our children (crime, addictions, abuse both physical and sexual, poverty, illiteracy, exclusion, ill health, unhappiness, mental illness, lack of sexual fulfillment).

Thus family structure is exceedingly important to society and a return to intact marriage is a sine qua non for a nation or for families set on rebuilding themselves.

Given that, consider the implications of the following chart on the intactness of marriage at the end of the first five years of marriage:

What this chart shows is the probability of intactness of family after the first five years of marriage– given the number of sexual partners of the spouses have had in their lifetime. Using rounded numbers:  95% of those who are monogamous, that is only one sexual partner in their life time —i.e. only their spouse–95% are still in an intact marriage after the first five years. But for the woman (national average) who has had one extra sexual partner other than her husband (almost always prior to marriage) the percent drops to 62% and with two extra partners it drops almost to 50%.  Thereafter it plateaus.  For men it takes five sexual partners to reach the same level of breakup.

When I first saw this phenomenon in the 1995 data (the above is 2006-2010 data) my immediate reaction was “Those Mediterranean cultures that had chaperoning during courtship knew something about human nature, family life and intergenerational stability.” They ensured Mediterranean family was on the three-love diet.

Chastity and monogamy are foundational to the intact married family, and thus to the prosperity and success of a nation.  Hence my conclusion that this chart is the most important chart in all of the social sciences.

A culture of monogamy is critical to a thriving nation or a thriving culture.

A culture of chastity is foundational to a culture of monogamy.

Thus the cultivation of chastity is central to a robust nation and a robust culture.  Chastity is an old term but now out of favor even among Christians, given the impact of political correctness i.e. cultural Marxism. However it is the accurate label for the virtue or strength behind the data.

For the impact of monogamy at a more causative level check out the work of JD Teachman on Google Scholar  or his CV and you will be able to thread the impact of monogamy in an admirable corpus of cumulative scholarship that is one of the great contributions to research on the family.

Though the above chart is purely correlational – it is demographically descriptive of America, of what is happening between our couples who get married.  One chart cannot prove chastity is causative (go to Teachman and others to tease that out) but it sure indicates where causal strength (or weakness) can be found.

Marriage and the Economy

child well-being, children, divorce, economics, fathers, intact family, marriage, men 1 comment

Not until the withdrawal from marriage of the last fifty years has the West been able to see so clearly its powerful contribution to all aspects of society including the economy.

Gary Becker’s work brought the family back into economics (where it had been the foundational unit of economics in the beginning, as laid out by the common sense of Aristotle). Becker’s vein of research has gained more traction and has influenced the work of many other Nobel Laureates, including Robert Lucas (1995): macro growth theory of expectations; James Heckman (2000): econometric theory of samples; and George Akerlof (2001): Keynesian market economics. 

Marriage makes men different. And if it does not, their marriages either end or are unhappy. 

Among the economic differences that marriage makes in men, two stand out: they work harder (married men are more productive, and an area’s minor dependency ratio is strongly associated with employment among adult men aged 25 to 54), and thus earn more (their incomes increase 26 percent). 

Conversely, divorce has a major negative impact, reducing the income of the child-raising household by 30 percent or more while driving down the growth rate of the economy by one sixth every year for the last 20 years. This latter happens because divorced men, on average, decrease their productivity enormously.

In education, the precondition for a good wage in the modern economy, marriage is a key ingredient to the productivity of children in their learning. The early home environment lays down a foundation that has an extremely powerful effect later in life. Children born into a married family have a tremendous educational advantage, which is evidenced by graduation rates right through to the college level.

Married families are much more economically efficient households, a characteristic that is not measured in GDP accounting. What is invisible here is the real resource efficiency of a major section of the economy (the home economy). Many married home economies do much better internally because of this totally neglected aspect of productivity.

As the poor and the working class (even into the middle class quintile 3) withdraw from marriage, the productivity of the U.S. declines and the burden on the welfare system increases. Furthermore, the success of the social and welfare policies developed over the last decades greatly depend on the health of marriage. Failing to recognize this dependence, U.S. welfare policies continue to fail to lift people out of poverty (even as the economy grows and world markets massively expand).

Marriage is increasingly the dividing line between those who can learn, who can work in an information economy, who save, who own their own homes, who live happier lives, and who live healthier and longer.

Until now, marriage has been the hidden ingredient of a vibrant economy.

Marriage and Infidelity

commitment, community, culture, divorce, Hollywood, intact family No comments

The seven-decade tradition of TV watching continues apace in the Internet Age: 34.2 percent of the internet bandwidth is occupied by Netflix during primetime according to Sandvine the provider of such data. But there is a link between TV viewing and the state of marriage.

A natural experiment occurred in Brazil between 1960 and 1990 as the government there pursued a TV expansion strategy, moving into a new state every few years and building the infrastructure for TV watching. This staggered project provided a staggered change in behavior as peoples TV viewing changed in each newly furbished state. The end result: a significant rise, and a staggered rise province by province, as TV viewing spread. Soap opera viewing (i.e., infidelity-viewing) was identified as one of the most significant aspects of the change.  Henry Potrykus of MARRI summarizes the research in a brief paper.

We in the states have been watching TV for so long, and its content increasingly depicts family lifestyles that we have come to accept and condone (sex outside of marriage, divorce, and cohabitation), that we are likely totally unaware of the effect of TV watching on the family behavior of ourselves and of our children. Even mature adults are affected. Divorce among those fifty and above has grown very significantly in the last few decades. Instead of seeking marital therapy that works, the divorce court seems to be the route of choice.

Where lies this power to change? One of the most powerful resources of the mind is the faculty of the imagination. Skilled hypnotherapists use it all the time, and to great effect. Top athletes become experts at using it constantly in their preparation and even during peak contests. One of the greatest, if not the greatest, psychotherapists ever, Milton Erickson, started early in his career with traditional hypnosis but forty years later had evolved to getting the right helpful image into the mind of his client… By the art of storytelling. TV combines the story, the image, and the idea. No wonder it has such powerful effects.

Americans watch an average of 2.8 hours of TV per dayaccording to one of the best sources, the Department of Labor’s Time Use Survey. Can we have a strong culture that feeds on so much family-weakening imagery? Brazil says no. 

It may not be the picture or what is viewed as much as the ideas—conveyed most powerfully through the image—that have the impact, as Richard Weaver in 1948 contended and as he foretold the generalized effects of TV, which he called “The Great Stereopticon” in his classic “Ideas Have Consequences.” Ideas with story images have even greater consequences for good or for ill. Parents, take note. And my wife and I had better be careful about what we watch on TV. We become what we think about.

Chastity, Monogamy, and Divorce

chastity, divorce, intact family, Jay Teachman, John Boyd, MARRI, monogamy, NSFG, polyamory, virginity No comments

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.
Director, MARRI

Christianity gave the world a social order that was based on monogamy, the fruit of Christ’s teachings on marriage, divorce, adultery and fornication.   He raised the bar higher than any prophet or moralist ever had.  It was a tough standard and even his closest followers balked when they realized the implications:  “In that case it is better that a man not marry.” (Mt. 19:10).

But Christ knew what was possible to those who embraced His way, and gradually, as Christianity spread and as Western Civilization was formed stable monogamous marriage became more and more the norm.  The different Christian nations and cultures had different ways of protecting the chastity of their youth, especially that of their young women: think of Spanish chaperoning.   Virginity until marriage and monogamous, stable marriage definitely became very common, and the rare event was the total breakdown of a marriage.  America today is very different.  Fifty four percent of our seventeen year olds have parent who have split.  We have become a culture of rejection between the two sexes.

The chart above gives more than a hint of why our present sexual culture is linked to the break-up of first  marriages:  the number of sexual partners that a spouse has had prior to marriage, and — with expectations of controversy for this hypothesis — especially the number of sexual partners the new wife has had.   
While the stability of the first marriages of both men and women seems linked to their sexual histories, and wives who are non-virgins are more likely than their husbands to divorce, relative to their sexual history.  The rates of stability for virginal men and women are quite similar, but the correlational difference between the husband being his wife’s second sexual partner has more impact on the stability of their marriage than does the analogous for him.  And if he is her third sexual partner the impact increases, approaching a 50 percent breakdown. 
The initial correlation for men is less dramatic, but is steadily negative and for both men and women whose first husband is their fifth sexual partner the probability of marital breakdown is similar and disastrous: one in two.    
This data is from a recent MARRI analysis of the NSFG 2006-2010 data, yet to be published on-line.  Though it is only correlational its fits with other more rigorous analyses of similar, earlier data from the same survey, for instance that by Jay Teachman.    
The stability of marriage is strongly dependent on life-time monogamy, and seems weighted more to the monogamy of women.  
Such seems to me the case the data makes.   It is uncomfortable data for modern young men and women but, to quote John Boyd:  “The most important data is the data that does not fit.”  This interpretation needs to be challenged and the best way to do that is to see if rigorous analysis (regressions for a start) comes to the same conclusion.  In the answer lies the strength of the next generation.