family

family

Pornography

abstinence, adolescent sexuality, child well-being, children, community, culture, D.C., elections, family, fathers, pornography, Technology, youth 1 comment

Recently, for a talk in Chicago to parents of high school boys, I had to update my knowledge based on a 2009 review of the effects of pornography. On this issue the world has changed a lot in less than ten years: the use of pornography has escalated and the effects are alarming.

The most telling effect, I think, is the epidemic of erectile dysfunction (ED) among men.  For all of human history this was mainly an older man’s problem.  As recently as 2002 the rate of ED for men aged 40–80 was about 13% in Europe. By 2011 rates reached 28% for men aged 18–40. As reported above, a 2014 cross-sectional study of active duty, relatively healthy, 21–40 old males in the US military, found that one third (33.2%) suffered from ED.

Unaware of these changes, for the last year or so I had thought that the drop in high school students’ rate of sexual intercourse was good news and that, since 2007, abstinence ideas were winning, but given the above data, all of the causes may not be good news. Increased pornography use among teenage boys, resulting in decreased interest in girls, may be the cause. This also serves to put in context a disturbing experience I had a few weeks ago while driving through a wealthy Washington D.C. suburb during rush hour: I noticed (as must several other drivers waiting for the traffic lights to change) a 12-year-old moving along the sidewalk, intently looking at his smartphone in one hand while his other hand was engaged in self-abuse.  I had not yet reviewed the new research on the prevalence of pornography viewing and was quite taken aback.  No longer.  At age 12 he was already so addicted to porn and had no shame.  The average age of a boy’s first viewing of pornography has dropped to 10 years of age. Fathers be aware.

75 percent of porn-watching is done on smart phones.  25 percent of all internet searches are for pornography.  Tablets and computers make up the rest, computers being the smallest percentage. The average length of stay on a porn site is about 10 minutes. 70 percent of US college students watch porn — alone, with others, or in couples.  45 percent of women now accept it in their relationships.  10 percent of women refuse to view it themselves but accept it in their husbands or partners.

A decade ago women viewed pornography at about one sixth the rate of men.  Today, depending on the country, it varies from only one third the rate of men (US) to one half (the Philippines and Brazil).

Estimates of production range up to 4.2 million websites (12 percent of the total sites worldwide) with 420 million web pages. Every single day, worldwide, there are more than 68 million search engine requests for pornography (which is 25 percent of all search requests).

What are the negative effects for those who become habituated and especially for those who become addicted?  Changes in brain size (diminished); the younger boys start the greater the effects on their brain, and the more difficult to overcome the addiction; men see women as sex objects not as persons, have greater interest in pornography than in the company of women or girlfriends; they suffer increasingly from erectile dysfunction, become more aggressive in their relationships with spouses or partners, are more likely to believe the ‘rape myth’ (that women enjoy being sexually abused), and progress to more and more deviant pornography to attain sexual arousal, leading in turn to greater sexual deviancy;  teenagers will be more likely to engage in same-sex sexual activities. It is no wonder that American young adults and college students are less and less interested in marriage and may be on the way towards the “Japanese disease” of widespread withdrawal from interest in sexual matters among 30-year-olds.

This is a calamity of monumental proportions.  Combined with contraception and abortion, we now have a ‘society-collapsing’ conception and practice of human sexuality.

Given the borderless nature of the internet, pornography is difficult to control.  However, there is not a nation on earth for whom its effects are not massively deleterious.  This is one public health hazard on which the governments of the world should cooperate.  Without that cooperation it cannot be stamped out. And, given the rate at which porn movies are made, the industry would have to be a major source of the sexual exploitation of women, with probable links to sex-trafficking.

In the meantime, savvy parents — and even savvy teenagers — will switch to dumb phones.  Giving a teenage boy a smart phone is installing a porn-shop in his pocket… and a very alluring shop it is too: cheap (free) porn, immediately available, and anonymous. In ten minutes a teenage boy can see more and more beautiful undressed women than the greatest sultan harem-owner in history ever saw in a lifetime. Who could resist?  Not many.

One father, a friend of mine who took great care in introducing his boys into a gradual and full understanding of male sexuality and its foundational role in marriage, came up with a savvy way of helping his boys avoid pornography:  He told them that, if any boy at their school showed porn to them on a smartphone, they had his full permission to grab the phone, smash it on the ground, stomp it into bits, and then tell that classmate to have their father call his father. One can imagine their glee but, so far, they have not had the joy of following through.  Their school now forbids smartphones during school hours on school property.  Maybe the practice will spread. ‘Dumb phones’ work fine for communicating with parents, family, and friends. The world is different when dumb is smart!

Parenting

caring, child well-being, children, family, Uncategorized No comments

Recently, I led a group of young parents in a case study designed to teach them how to handle a three-year-old when he is throwing a temper tantrum.  The parents in the case study were dealing with their first child and made several typical mistakes: one parent spanked in anger and one parent denigrated the other in front of the child.

We dissected the case: what happened, what went wrong, what they needed to do in the future, and how to get there.  Towards the end of the session we gained a bird’s eye view when someone pointed out that the underlying issue was one of trust.  The whole episode came alive again with new energy as we analyzed the case from that perspective.

The case parents were trying to form a habit of restraint in their child so that they could trust him to practice restraint in the future.  When he demonstrates that he can restrain himself their trust in him will grow.  If he does not learn restraint, however, they will trust him less.

Ironically, to achieve this level of formation in their child, they need to be able to trust each other to “do the right thing” when disciplining their child.  Though they agree on what Johnny needs to do they do not yet agree on what each of them needs to do. In this situation they cannot trust each other yet.

This problem will be solved when they can agree: “You can rely on me to do this in this situation.  And I can rely on you to do that in this same situation.”  When they can both look each other in the eye and each say this to each other the ground beneath them has shifted. Not only has trust been restored, but the foundation of their marriage has grown and they have learned how to deepen it.  When they have solved a string of problems in this way they are well on their way to being great parents and a great couple because they have learned how to grow trust.

No matter what way they discipline their child he will turn out strong because they know it is all about trust. “Johnny, you can rely on me to do this for you.  Can I rely on you to do the same for me?”  Johnny learns many good habits but, more importantly, he learns the value of being trustworthy.

Given the massive disruption in trust that the US is experiencing in all its institutions (family, church, school, marketplace, and government) it seems that fellow citizens who are opponents on so many issues need to begin their discourse with: “You can rely on me to treat you with respect in our conversations.  Can I rely on the same from you?”   Without a “yes” there is no point in having the conversation. With a “yes” the ground has shifted— a brick has been laid in the infrastructure we need most: trust.

If we adopt this habit a lot will change. Is there anyone in your orbit with whom you need to practice this?  A spouse?  A child? A relative?  A co-worker? A neighbor?

 

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

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

Smartphones and Technology

community, depression, family, happiness, Technology, youth No comments

Today’s two findings link the digital world with relational outcomes that no one wants: abortion and unhappiness.  The digital world is a two-edged sword.  We know its benefits, but increasingly we are getting to know it’s down-sides.  Japan, one of the most digitally saturated societies on earth, is experiencing one of technology’s noxious byproducts: hikikomori  they call it, the shut-in lifestyle of young people who have withdrawn from society in fear and isolation to live, not socially, but digitally.

Being human, we are deeply relational from the first moments of our existence and thrive on good relationships throughout our lives. We are brought into existence by the most intimate and desirable of relational activities.  We come into the world to be nursed and cuddled in an intimacy many of us, subconsciously, seek to recreate throughout life, especially if we did not get enough in infancy.  We thrive in families that spend lots of time together, supporting each other in the tasks of life.  This is made even easier for us if we live in a close community.  Add lots of intact marriages and lots of weekly worship (both deeply relational) and life is pretty good for almost all involved.  Children who grow up in these environments are much more likely to thrive in adulthood.

Life in a Jewish Family” by Edith Stein, describes just such a family life in a close-knit Jewish community. It changed how my wife and I raised our children.  Later it led me to frequently suggest to my daughters that, in their turn, they consider living close to each other, if possible, when they married and began their own families because their children would benefit from all the aunts, uncles, and cousins they would have around them.  Better still, if they were anchored in a community of worship, and best of all if they had all this and friends close by.  What gifts for all the children involved!

Charles Murray of AEI in Coming Apart and Robert Putnam of Harvard in Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis tell pretty much the same story: upper-class parents, by and large, understand the relational needs of their children and that their own marriage is foundational to their children’s future.  These parents are well educated and know the research. These upper-class parents also understand and practice the worship of God more than most!

But all this good work can be undone, even for the best of parents, should the digital get a hold on the imagination and habits of their children.

Here too, savvy elites catch on quickly:  A few years ago, I gave a presentation to a group of very wealthy and highly educated married couples. The topic was ‘the benefits to children of the time married parents spend with them’.  One of the couples recounted their smartphone strategy: every family member, including each parent, puts his smartphone into a big ceramic bowl in the foyer when he arrives home.  The phones stay there until after dinner and, on going to bed, are put back there again until after breakfast … which they all have together as their start to the day.  They insisted they knew the value of things and that the most valuable of all is time with the most important people in their lives … each other and their children.

 

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

Pat Fagan,
Director, MARRI at CUA

Society

family, role models, social science, society No comments

I have spent a life in the social sciences, psychology and sociology, yet it was not till relatively recently that I dug into the work of René Girard. Within his work one fundamental insight stands out: man is an imitator.  This flies in the face of being an American, being modern and being independent. To imitate is to be dependent on another. Though independent people never want to be seen as dependent, this is a major shortcoming, especially when its power is not constantly taught.

It is extremely powerful.  We imitate those we trust, even in small things and even when we don’t know much about the people we rate as trustworthy: In an art gallery we are more likely to go to paintings looked at by others whose  faces seem trustworthy than to pictures looked at by those whose faces don’t seem trustworthy. This happens without our realizing it. The example of those we trust is powerful. We have yet to harness this power of imitation to mold the human soul.  It phenomenon is worth cultivating.

We could help those in society who are being left behind by teaching them, not what to do, or how to do it (evaluation data shows that does not work) but, instead, whom to copy.

Children from the inner-city have few-to-no examples of children who grew up in their neighborhood and made it to college, or who got married. Without others to imitate they cannot imitate. This is the great poverty. Today, many of our inner-city poor have a material well-being way greater than the middle class of the 1960’s, but their real poverty has grown much deeper. Congress suffers the same poverty  and all the mega-social agencies (HHS, HUD, DOE, DOJ, CDC) spend their behavior-improving-money uselessly (and the data show it so, again and again), because of the absence of an abundance of good examples.

When there are no good examples to imitate how do we break the cycle of bad choices made?

Stories abound of good folk who befriended those in need. But good folk don’t present themselves as examples to be imitated but rather are noticed as quietly go about helping. Those who receive the help and those who see the helping often get more from the example of their well-lived lives than from “the help”. I remember a Maryland pastor telling the story of his wife as a young girl. Her family was totally dysfunctional.  All her siblings were in jail.  She, however, was able to take a different path because of a kind couple who lived a on her street. With her parents’ permission, they took her in every weekend and brought her to church with them on Sunday, dressing her up for weekly worship. Those Saturdays and Sundays spent with that couple opened her eyes and she saw what life could be. The seed was sown and she cultivated it throughout her teens and into adulthood.

So how can the single mother break the cycle of single motherhood for her daughters? One way is to find single mothers who have raised daughters who married successfully and imitate them.  How can the absent-father break the cycle of father-absence for his son? They find single fathers who have raised sons who married successfully and imitate them.

But for the inner-city poor these examples may be so infrequent as not to be noticed (only 9% of African American seventeen-year-olds in SE Washington live with their married biological parents, 91 % have a different example). How do we help them?

Netflix could get creative, could do great good with all the profits they are making. Uplifting human-interest stories are always enjoyable. They can make the careers of scriptwriters and directors. Masterpiece Theatre, if it pulled off something like this would bring a totally new meaning to its name.  Bill and Melinda Gates, concerned that their spending may not be achieving as much good as they hoped, might invest in true stories of bravery and goodness and love giving birth to a stronger generation.

In a way, we all have this task of finding, and making known those hidden people who have achieved the worthiness of being imitated in their family life. We need others to imitate if we are to go forward to our next level of being better.  We all love a good story, especially one of rags to riches (and most especially from family relational rags to family relational riches).

Write Netflix or Masterpiece Theatre or The Gates Foundation.

Womanhood

family, natural family planning, women No comments

Today we come to celebrate the work of Natural Womanhood, whose calling is to tip the world towards the future it needs if it is not to descend into yet more chaos. (A version of this with footnote references may be found on the MARRI site here.)

Every natural family planning method teaches the “how” of going about the marital act but they hide their fundamental purpose: a family built on the unity of wife and husband, and built on the woman’s personal choices. In the world where woman has her full dignity she controls access to sexual intimacy; thus, her desires and her fears take center stage in choosing “how” and when.  But to achieve this she needs her husband’s full cooperation.  With such a husband she has the man every woman dreams of:  one who cooperates with her and honors her at the deepest level – at the level of creating their child together.

One very significant piece of research was conducted on the NFP family but is virtually unknown: Dr. Robert Lerner’s comparison of an opportunity sample of Couple to Couple League graduates with a random national sample of all married couples with children.

Listen to this: On the question of success in raising their families 75 % of the NFP group scored in the “success group” (satisfied, very satisfied and extremely satisfied) while the national average was 6%.  At the other end, the unsuccessful group (dissatisfied, very dissatisfied and extremely dissatisfied), the national average was 69% while the NFP average was only 2%.  Differences such as these are very seldom seen in social science.

The reason, the cause, can be found in another result within the report:

On satisfaction with communication between spouses, 76% of NFP women are Satisfied (Satisfied, very satisfied, or extremely satisfied) while only 5% are Dissatisfied (dissatisfied, very dissatisfied, extremely dissatisfied). Seventy six percent versus five percent is virtually an unheard-of difference in the scientific literature, but I am certain of the cause because during my first three years as a therapist I learned the power of unity in marriage. By my third year of practice, I would not see a child until I could see the whole family (including father).   After a few sessions, keeping the focus off the child and on the whole family, I would suggest “Let us leave the children at home next time,” and then start working on the troubles in the marriage that invariably were a significant part of the picture.  When unity between the couple was restored, 95% of the children became symptom-free without “having to be treated”. The child thrives in the love that is unity between parents. This is the secret of success for NFP couples.

This is the great difference Natural Womanhood brings to the world. It offers a superior world, a world all women wish was accessible to them, a world of unity between husband and wife, where communications are great; where confidence in parenting is very high; where children thrive. And it all begins with sex: a choice between two lifestyles, two types of community, two cultures — two civilizations really–where people belong to each other or one where people are lost and reject each other and their children. The conversation about sex determines the way.

With the way of Natural Womanhood everyone wins: The couple, the child, the next generation, the community and the culture.

Why would anyone not accept this way? Because of the false promises, deceptions, easy “truths” that the “Cheap Sex” offered in contraceptive sexual intercourse — cheap because it promises the greatest of pleasures without Nature’s corresponding price of marriage and of children.  Contraception is inherently deceptive and hides — and never, ever acknowledges its costs, the highest often being the rejection, even the elimination of the child, as well as the relationship cost between the couple.   Everyone pays dearly.

Different women pay the price of myriad biological effects that at different rates, in different ways and with increasing visibility, are causing the bodies of women to breakdown in such illnesses as thrombosis, stroke, glaucoma, as well as breast, cervical, and liver cancers. It significantly increases weight gain, and complications with Type 2 diabetics. It changes brain functioning. All the woman’s biological systems are oriented towards attracting, conceiving, birthing, nursing.  Contraception closes these systems down, and different systems for different women crack under the strain. It is not nature’s way.

It has also brought us levels of STDs unknown in recorded history: We now have at least four “constant epidemics” with 20 million new infections per year, yielding a total of 110 million ongoing infections —- causing such damage as ectopic pregnancy, infertility and irregular bleeding.

The woman’s psychological costs include increased depression and anxiety. It even alters her perception of men leading her to choose a husband she never would have chosen were she not on the pill, or to not like her husband when she comes off the pill.

Ironically, it reduces the enjoyment of sexual intercourse for many women.

What a massive deception of women.

The Child (our future) has paid the highest price. Modern levels of child victimization are now so massive it is hard for the mind to grasp, and beyond anything ever experienced in human history — all because of sex gone wrong through contraception, which, without exception has invariably led to massive human deficits — starting with abortion, even in nations where it is outlawed.  Today, across the globe, 60 million new human beings are killed in the womb each year.  This is akin to deliberately repeating the total killings of WWII every year.

For those who live, in the US, by age seventeen, 54% live in a family without their biological mother and father living together — with all the concomitant weaknesses that brings in every major task in life. Most damaging of all is their diminished capacity and likelihood of belonging to a spouse and to their children in their own adult lives.

The biggest price for the man is that he is rejected by his woman (70% of the divorces and most of the cohabitations) after which he has less to live for.  And his father-absent sons, will in turn, become child-absent fathers in their time. These fathers die younger, sadder and lonelier, with addictions leading the way as the immediate cause, and suicide trailing a bit behind.

The community pays in the massive social costs of out of wedlock births, abortions and divorces, and these, not just at increased levels but at “culture shock” levels.  The sexual revolution of the 1960’s, the pill, has given us a severed nation where more than half of seventeen-year-olds now live in families where one of their parents has split.  For African Americans 83% have split.  The cost in the loss of human talent is astronomical, an absence compounded by its replacement by increased crime, poverty, addictions, mental illness, ill heath, educational failure!

Compounded over generations (now multiple generations for many) this is leading to increased victimization of children.

At the global level we see the depopulation of developed Western nations.  Europe is slowly dying, but by history’s timeline, very quickly. Northern Italy is the prime exhibit, where the child now has no brothers or sisters, aunts or uncles or cousins, where the future must belong to foreigner because the inhabitants are disappearing.  The same is playing out in Holland – which is likely to become a majority Moslem nation in your lifetime. God blesses those who give Him children; even God cannot bless those who do not exist!

The price to the body politic is an atmosphere of increased rejection, hostility, disunity and irreconcilable goals and factions.  Scapegoat-seeking is rising quickly: “You are the cause of this set of victims, for it cannot be me. And — if I get to say it first: you are the cause.”  This is the sound of a marriage breaking up. It is also the sound of a body politic breaking apart.

Culture pays the price in the death of romance — and with that the debasement of the arts and entertainment, along with the erosion of worship of God and the unleashing of lust, anger, hatred and violence. All the data show this.  And it all begins with sex gone wrong — with sex gone deceptive — with sex gone contraceptive.

Paraphrasing Longfellow we can say: “The wheels of nature grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small.”

Contraception has given us a world into which no sane adult would freely choose and only a diabolical architect would design. The world has been duped and deceived —- by the father of lies. But nobody believes in him anymore, so he continues to win.

Natural Womanhood offers a different world.

There is a trinitarian nature to human relationships — but it all depends on which trinity we put in place: the positive one or the negative one; the other-oriented one or the self-centered one.  The third person every sexually active couple deals with, inviting into or banishing from the conversation, is the child. One triad, the inclusive one, is like a three-atom molecule in stable orbit, the other, the excluding one, is composed of two atoms colliding with the third.  It is unstable and very dangerous as we have just listed.

We know and need not duck the reality that such stable couples are most often, though not exclusively, found among those who worship God regularly.

Though by now virtually every educated person knows that adults and children thrive most in the always-intact-married-family, but virtually no one knows that the same source of data – the US federal survey system — also shows, always, that the adults and children who thrive most also worship God weekly.  The royal road to thriving is the two great loves of marriage and the worship of God.  That NFP couples also often illustrate is thus no wonder.

And here is what they set in motion:

Without realizing it NFP couples openly teach the fundamental likeness of man to God in their conversations about intercourse, for they acknowledge the presence of the child, waiting eagerly on the sidelines, to be called into the ”game of life”, waiting so intensely it takes huge effort to keep him there till beckoned.  But when The Natural Woman and her husband call, that child is welcomed with a love that makes this new trinity on earth an image and likeness of  the Trinity in heaven — at least a beginning likeness.

This is the great reality that Natural Womanhood offers this child just conceived, the one cell zygote being shuttled by follicles down his mother’s fallopian tube to be lodged in her womb, there to grow into the baby that will soon upend her life and her husband’s forever, transforming her into a beautiful mother with a new fierce purpose in life while transforming him into a determined father, provider and protector.

Consider this: This newly conceived infant, at this point not even known to his parents but only to the Trinity, but drawing on the universal experience of the whole human race could say to his parents:

“I need your marriage, your growing unity, to become the person God intends me to be.  He has made me dependent on that love, which also happens to be the path for you to become the mature persons you must become— if I am to become the person I am meant to be.  From here on out, all three of us are dependent on this marriage. From here on we are a trinity.”

And we all are to worship God, at minimum, weekly if we are to become the person we are meant to be.  All human history, in all cultures across the globe, across all times, teaches this lesson. This way, together, we three can become much more the persons He wants us to be, so that we can be together with Him, after we have walked the full length of the path of life.” 

Natural Womanhood has appeared at its appointed time. By now many know about NFP, but barely and inadequately.  However, the deception of “Cheap Sex” is now more unmasked if only because the suffering it brings is more visible.  Furthermore, both social and biological sciences are on your side, because — when well done—they cannot but illustrate the way God made man.

But keep in mind that modern woman’s great conflict is the child.  Deep in her bones she knows the child is the price of happiness, but who can show her the way, and where does she find the man worthy of marrying her?

Because we all are created as imitators we have no choice but the wrong one if we do not have attractive people to imitate. Natural Womanhood is great work and must point to those worth imitating.  You are called to be great storytellers, called to build a new civilization worthy of a future by being worthy of the woman and the child.

I am sure God is with you as you set about your work.  May you experience His presence and His help, and enjoy heaven with those you help get there.

Home Economics

economics, family, marriage, mothers No comments

In his book Redeeming Economics, John Mueller, of The Ethics and Public Policy Center, formerly  an economic forecaster with many Fortune 500 clients, traces the suppression and the loss of the Fourth Law of Economics – the law of distribution.  This law had been well known to economists of the Middle Ages when the study of economics boomed — along with the boom in the European economy   (Adam Smith tried to reduce the laws  to one, failed, and ended up with two, but suppressed two.) Others since have added back the third.  The fourth has yet to be “rediscovered”, if one does not count Mueller’s work.   The distribution of the income of a firm, a family or an individual goes a very long way in adding to the economy of the firm, family or individual.  One basic example is how much spending vs saving vs charitable giving goes on. Some in the family often forego their share to take care of others (the law of the gift — of redistribution, freely undertaken).  Charitable giving at the right moment can make a huge difference to the life of someone in need; saving to send a child to college or to private school is another form of the gift.  There are myriad.  But going to the family level is the mother at home raising her children is involved in multiple gift-giving all the time and Nobel Laureate Gary Becker says makes a greater contribution to the economy than her husband working out in the marketplace.   That mother has a hidden and powerful effect on the money her husband brings home to the family.  She can make it go much further if she is wise.  The husband who has such a wife is much wealthier than the husband with the same income but a wife not as wise or selfless.  With a little thought you can identify women on both sides of this divide.

How large is that mother’s contribution?  We get some idea from the research of a colleague of mine at Catholic University, Dr. Sophia Aguirre.  Drawing on multiple federal economic surveys she demonstrated that when the mother goes out to work she has to reach pretty high levels of income to replace the lost “amplifying redistribution” effect, as well as making  up for the extra costs involved in going to work (clothes, transportation, increased taxes and  child care to name but a few).  Aguirre’s conclusion: “Yet, we also find that for the most part, the net income is [on average] economically insignificant.  Furthermore, the results suggest that the lower the income and the education of the secondary earner, the higher the probability of the net contribution to the total income of the household to be zero, or possibly negative.”

In other words, the net contribution of most mothers to the family income is not great, unless she is very well educated and can command a significant income ($100,000 +, ten years ago when the study was done).  Though this is disappointing news for many, looked at differently it is fantastic news for most:  The mother at home makes enormous economic contributions to her family and multiplies the income her husband brings home – and that does not even address the huge educational, psychological and social benefits of her presence to her children and their future earnings capacity (which was the basis of Gary Becker’s insight of her contribution to the economy being much greater than her husbands.  That conclusion depends on the time frame used to judge her contribution.  In a world of quarterly reports that contribution is totally missed.)

Now back to John Mueller: At a recent conference when he presented on the major insights of “Redeeming Economics” I asked him how much of the economy is hidden by the law of redistribution (the law of the gift, which among other gifts includes  the mother’s contribution at home).  His public answer: “About 50%”.  That is our GDP is twice as big as we think it is.

Mueller’s analysis and Aguirre’s analysis coming from totally different perspectives end up in pretty much the same place.  Mother virtually doubles the family’s economic benefit!

If one were to include the costs to the economy of increases in crime, addiction, school failure, ill health and mental illness — all resulting from “anti-gifts” — the absence of the gift of marriage to the children — with the depletion from the economy (crime, stealing, robbery, fraud, and all costs that would be avoided were all children raised in married families), this changes the picture yet more.

There is a long research road to hoe before this basic insight will be absorbed by the academy, by economists, by professors and their students, by legislators and those interested in wealth (investors and bankers), but the preliminary evidence is very, very big.

It is amazing how learned we can be yet how ignorant at the same time.  No wonder economics is the “dismal science” when it leaves out 50% of its field, all because it leaves out the gift of love in its most basic form: married family life.

Pat Fagan

The Success Sequence

family, marriage, society, success sequence No comments

Culture and the child are interdependent. Another significant recent report by Professor Brad Wilcox of the University of Virginia makes the case, yet again, in a study for the American Enterprise Institute.  Both the parents and the child benefit if the child is born after the parents get married.

“Even millennials from low-income families are more likely to flourish if they married before having children: 71 percent who married before having children made it into the middle or higher end of the income distribution by the time they are age 28–34. By comparison, only 41 percent of millennials from lower-income families who had children first made it into the middle or higher end of the distribution when they reached ages 28–34.”

But seeing that the overall culture and cohesion of the US has significantly decreased, where do young folk go to imbibe the culture that guides them on these paths of human flourishing?  They need to find local mini-cultures, communities where the traditional elements of strong cultures are present and strong: married families, children, worship and prayer, all tied to happiness, neighborliness and mutual support.

And where will they find those local mini-cultures?  My grand-daughter and her mother were at a nearby parish for a soccer game and found the families there to be fun and involved and both hoped that some friendships might be nurtured.  However, they also found those local families to be so engrossed in each other they were not concerned to invite others in.  But behind the “exclusion” was the presence of a strength: local families taking intense care of each other.

In this mini-community, my daughter witnessed what the early Christians were known for: “See how they love one another!”  Local communities like that are needed to help those lost but looking.  It is important that those in such solid communities spot and welcome those who are seeking to join. (By the way, my granddaughter is doing fine: she has plenty of friends and her family is a member of a vibrant parish).

Our culture will be rebuilt one house of worship at a time.  By feeding the universal and fundamental need-to-belong, even financial benefits gradually accrue. The success sequence for millennials (one could say the sexual success sequence) is much the same as it has been for generations.

Human Capital

family, family structure, human capital, marriage, religion No comments

Human Capital drives material and financial capital, across all the economies of the world.  That is why Harvard ranks so high: it “puts the best finishing touches” to the highest human capital it can lay its hands on (young people with high scores – who tend to come from good families) so their graduates can make the most of the future material and financial resources at their disposal.

 

But what is the source of human capital?   In three words: great long-term relationships.

 

The most fundamental of all relationships is that between our parents.  Nothing shapes the person as does his parents’ marriage (or lack of it).  Asian Americans have the most enduring marriages — and the highest achieving children in the US.

 

Some would contend — from the data — that one’s relationship with God is even more powerful and fundamental.

 

But really the question is: “Which comes first: the chicken or the egg?”

 

In the strongest families both relationships are present and the longer they are present the better the result – in all that the sciences measure.

 

The closer these relationships are, the stronger they are.  Close relationships, with God, spouse or children, demand care and nurturance. Ask any husband.  Ask any wife.

 

This is love – not romantic love, but enduring love.

 

The source of human capital is love: love of God and love of one’s closest neighbors: spouse and children.

 

The more generations these relationships have been in place the deeper and stronger the human capital.

 

That is what makes for Harvards, and economies and civilizations.  Love.

 

Thus, Africa is a growing civilization (religious practice is growing fast) while Europe and the US are diminishing civilizations.   The first is growing love more.  The latter are depleting love continuously.

 

Fifty to a hundred years from now the great migrations will be into Africa not out of it.

The Individual

family, individuals, persons, rights of children No comments

The difficulty with sociology is that it mainly deals with individuals and rarely with persons (though Mark Regnerus’ latest book, Cheap Sex, does both).

An individual is one among many.  A person is unique – unique to those who know him and relate with him.  Thus we are unique to our mothers who tend to know us better than anyone else, at least in our early years, and likely always in our fundamental personality.  We are unique to our spouses whether blessed with a good marriage, or not.  Sometimes a special friend knows us best for we have revealed more of ourselves to them than to anyone else.

We know we have individual rights — both universal rights and political rights unique to our citizenship.  Universal rights belong to all.  Individual political rights belong to those on whom they are conferred by the polis, by the community acting as a political entity.  Universal rights cross all borders; political rights are confined within political borders, and even within groups within these borders.

But do we have any personal rights distinct from individual rights?

Strangers I meet on the street are individuals to me and have individual rights I must respect.  But they are not yet persons for me, though they are persons to others.

However they are very much persons to their mothers, in whose womb they grew, whose eyes first looked into theirs and saw their first smile of “happy to be with you”.  Most of them are very much a person to their fathers, in a relationship that might rival that with their mother, if they are blessed.  Then with their siblings if they are blessed with a happy family life. And so the circle of person-ness extends outwards through close relationships.

If I have an enemy – one who wishes me ill – that changes my sense of myself and I am a different person because of that relationship. I know evil in an intimate way.  That makes me a different person.  If I have many enemies that shapes me into yet a more different person.

I may be blessed with many loving relationships.  I may be cursed with many personal enemies.

My relationships do not make me an individual.  I was an individual before I had any personal relationships.

What I am makes me an individual.  Whom I relate with makes me who I am.  The more loving relationships I have the easier it is for me to relate with others and with myself.   The more negative relationships I have the more difficult it is for me to relate with others and with myself. Our relationships amplify or detract from our ability to harness our capacities for good.

Are there any loving relationships to which I have a “right” — relationships which the other person has a duty to provide to me?

I posit there are three.  Everyone has a right to the loving relationship of their mother in the early years of our life. And the same is true of his father.  These two beings (father and mother) brought us into existence and thus conferred all the burdens of existence as well.  And to bear these burdens, to thrive in an ordinary, basic, human way we will need their loves.

But  we also need their love for each other because without that milieu of mutual love we cannot become fully the ordinary person we are constituted to become.  Just as it would be inhuman for my parents to deprive me of the oxygen I need to breath so too it is inhuman to deny me the atmosphere of love I need to become a person capable of relating well and intimately.

And because this is a universal need, a universal situation for every newborn, it is a universal right — a most appropriate “ask”. Universally is it a most appropriate “demand” of every child, a demand of the man and the woman who brought him into existence.

In the end, the very end, the most valuable reality I bring into the next life  is the web of loving relationships I have built; and the greatest concern I will have are the bad relationships I have caused.  I am what I have made of my relationships.  In the end only love endures.  Or hate.

Civilization in America

child well-being, family, happiness, human capital, marriage, religion No comments

A few years ago I met Don Renzo Bonetti, parish priest near Verona, Italy. He is the founder of a family movement, The Great Mystery Project (“Mistero Grande” in Italian).  He said he was “forming the families who will rebuild Western Civilization after it collapses” and wished me luck with my work in the social sciences, which he thought could play its own role (rather limited) in this rebuilding.

Western civilization is collapsing very quickly — silently in Italy and other European countries, as they gradually disappear, demographically, before our eyes — raucously in US.  Our debate may be the first stage of the next great awakening.  It is not yet a response but there is a widespread awakening to the level of the crisis and a growing desire to do something about it.

The solution, the rebuilding of America, will be aided by our deepest roots as a nation, which are not in our being a particular people or race but in the ideals of freedom, articulated by our Founders as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”   But these ideals alone will not be enough to carry the day.

Many institutions need rebuilding: schools, universities, media, movies, and churches. The reform needed for our ideals to flourish again in these will never take hold without the first and most basic reform – the rebuilding of our families.

Such rebuilding of the family is most likely to happen within communities of worship, because it is there that our national experts in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are most to be found: the intact married family that worships God weekly.

Where is life most abundant?  In the intact married family that worships God weekly.  Where is death most absent? In the very same place.

Where is liberty most abundant? Where are children free? Where are women and men most free to achieve the good they desire?  In that same place.

Where are people happiest?  In that same place.  The data is incontrovertible.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness occur most in the intact married family that worships God weekly.

This is the place where the two great loves are most present: love of others and love of God.  And these loves are both the seed and the soil of the rebirth of America.  These families know what to do and they are the most likely to help. This is America’s “Great Mystery”, its great resource.

Spread the word.

 

Pat Fagan