family

family

The Most Powerful and Influential Teachers on Earth

family, fathers, marriage, mothers No comments

Last week we saw the powerful effects of two great teachers: the church and the state and the need for both to be fundamentally aligned if one is to have a peaceful and prosperous society. But in terms of power and influence, nothing compares to parents in shaping their children’s view of life and capacity for life.

From the moment of birth the mother has the capacity to orient her child positively to “reality” by making those first moments, days, months and even years enjoyable and welcoming.   Dying young soldiers often give testimony to this by calling on their mothers, instinctively harkening back to the great welcome into life even as they exit it.  By contrast, very troubled mothers can lay the foundation for psychosis if, rather than welcoming their child, they make those first experiences horrendous, and the child protectively retreats to a safer place within itself, cutting itself off from this dangerous world it has just entered.  Therapists later do their limited best to draw the person back out again.

Increasing attention has been drawn to the influence of fathers.  They shape the sexuality of their children by the way they relate to the mother of their children, for that is the primary sexual relationship in the family.  We know all sorts of other good effects such as the more they read to their children the quicker they come to read and love books.  The more time he spends with his children the more they thrive.  President Obama talked of this a number of times.

But what nobody talks about in the media is the effect of the parent’s marriage on their children.  A good marriage is more powerful than a good mother or a good father taken singly, much more.

But the most powerful marriage is the one that includes weekly worship of God.  Such a marriage is the most powerful teacher and educator of children in every measured aspect of human life.  The following is a snapshot of the national picture for the US, by family structure and frequency of worship.

Forget about Japanese schooling or German schooling or British schooling.  They are all good but don’t hold a candle to the father and mother who are married and worship God weekly.  They are the “tiger mothers” and “super dads” all wrapped up in one loving package.  They are the most powerful educators on earth.  And they can be found across the globe. But talked about nowhere.  Strange.

The Infrastructure that Donald Trump Can Do Little About

elections, family, marriage, religion No comments

The election results stimulated myriad projections for change about the political and economic future, but at the foundational levels of society, marriage and worship, nothing changed this past week.

Political elections are about who gets to control the instruments of power.  But the fundamental work of rebuilding society from the ground up — restoring marriage and turning back to worshipping God weekly — remains in a realm beyond the instrumental tools of government. These fundamentals, so necessary for a functional society, remain untouched by the elections.

And yet the need to change these fundamentals is critical if the goods of politics are to bear fruit.  Otherwise it is all for naught in the medium to long term.  One good revolution (French, Russian, Chinese or Cambodian) can wipe out a lot overnight.

Marriage and religious practice are all about “belonging” — belonging to spouse and children and to God.  But belonging is not something we can manufacture for others, and it certainly is not something government can distribute, transfer or manufacture.  Belonging is the result of attraction — a fulfilled two-way attraction.  However, and this is key, it can start as a one-way attraction.  Many a brave man has proven this by wooing, and eventually winning, the reluctant woman of his dreams.  “Faint heart never won fair lady.”   She gradually came to see how attractive he really was.  But no man (not even the most radical of progressives) has ever turned to government to help him be more attractive to the woman of his dreams.  So to where and to whom do we turn for this rebuilding, this “sine qua non” of social policy, if not to government?  Is not social policy all about government?

This is the fundamental political question for all who want to see society get back on track.  Donald Trump can wield political instruments that will affect the economy, the army, medicine and even education (to a degree), but neither he nor his cabinet can improve marriage or levels of worship through policy initiatives. Yet, of all aspects of the United States, these are the “infrastructure” that needs rebuilding.

This family belonging, which is only full of its power when it means marital belonging between mother and father, is the glue that holds society together.  This lies, not in the realm of government (except to protect or destroy), but in the realm of “the people”.  Belonging is beyond the reach or competence of government.  Sure, big government can do and has done lots to wreck it–as in abortion, in sex education that undermines chastity and marriage, in laws that removed restraints on sex outside of marriage, or in liberal Supreme Courts, such as one that would have occurred under Hillary Clinton, that injects such principles into the legal system.  But the work of rebuilding lies in the heart of the citizen, not in the powers of government.

The social infrastructure of every inner city needs to be rebuilt. It depends on the capacity of millennials to stay married, to grow when adversity hits a marriage so that they mature into strong adults rather than wimp into a rejection that damages their children. Who can do that? Certainly not the instruments of government.

We can only turn to ourselves, and within ourselves to God.  We either attract others to chastity, marriage and worship or we repel them.  We are all either walking advertisements for marriage or effective propaganda against it. People expect a deep joy (even in painful times — especially in painful times) from marriage and family: we either deliver on this in our personal lives or we don’t.  Belonging is caught by contact, by seeing it, by experiencing it up close.  By being invited in.

Belonging is a very different social policy paradigm, but it is the only one that works.

Kids Count…Marriage Counts.

children, economic well-being, education, family, Health No comments

The Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) recently released its 2015 edition of Kids Count. This important annual study examines how the well-being of children changed between 2008 and 2013 in four areas: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. To get a fuller picture of child well-being, MARRI believes one must include family structure.

  • Kids Count 2015 shows numerous improvements in child well-being over the last five years, especially in education (reading and math proficiency) and health (declines in teen drug abuse and teen deaths). While these improvements are welcome news, the report also reported several declines.The portion of children in poverty and of children whose parents lack secure employment increased by 4% between 2008 and 2013. 
  • The proportion of children living in single-parent homes increased from 32% in 2008 to 35% in 2013.
  • In 2013, 34% of children in single-parent families were living in poverty verses 11% of children from married families.

For children, the first aspect of well-being is their family and whether it is intact or not.  Nothing shapes a child’s destiny as does her family. MARRI research has shown that children raised in single-parent families, as opposed to intact married families, are less likely to receive a high school degree. Likewise, children who experience parental divorce or separation are more likely to have health problems than those in intact married families. Those who grow up in non-intact married families are much more likely to be divorced or separated as adults than those who grew up in intact married families. And children from married, two parent families experience greater economic well-being than children raised in any other family structure, as the AECF report previously cited demonstrates.

Kids Count concludes, “With the right investments, we can provide all families and children with the opportunity to reach their full potential and, in the process, strengthen both our economy and our nation.” MARRI suggests that the most needed investment, for every child, is an always-intact married family.

Pope Francis: The Family is Key to Our Environment

environment, family, Laudato Si, Pope Francis No comments

Marriage and family are the necessary foundations of the road towards a sound ecology and away from environmental degradation, contends Pope Francis in his recent encyclical Laudato Si.

Quick verification test: What major nation is the most abusive of the environment and of children? China, by far on both counts.

In Laudato Si Pope Francis indicates that only by protecting the family, the first environment every child encounters, will society experience effectual progress:

I would stress the great importance of the family, which is “the place in which life—the gift of God—can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth. In the face of the so-called culture of death, the family is the heart of the culture of life.” In the family we first learn how to show love and respect for life; we are taught the proper use of things, order and cleanliness, respect for the local ecosystem and care for all creatures. In the family we receive an integral education, which enables us to grow harmoniously in personal maturity. In the family we learn to ask without demanding, to say “thank you” as an expression of genuine gratitude for what we have been given, to control our aggressivity and greed, and to ask forgiveness when we have caused harm. These simple gestures of heartfelt courtesy help to create a culture of shared life and respect for our surroundings. (Paragraph 213)

Pope Francis contends that man’s hardened heart, and the society it has produced, has profoundly damaged the environment. While Francis grapples with ecological issues, he primarily laments the decrepit human environment wrought with selfishness, insensitivity, self-gratification, and irreligiosity. As MARRI research has found on so many non-environmental issues such as the economy and health, environmental reform must first address the foundation of all human interaction, the family, “the basic cell of society,” (paragraph 157).

In society today, premarital sex, divorce, and cohabitation have massively depleted our human ecology. In the United States, only 46% of 15- to 17-year-olds have been raised by their married biological parents, and only 17% of black 15- to 17-year-olds have always lived with their married mother and father. At a vulnerable age when children should learn forgiveness, self-control, and love of neighbor, they instead experience rejection from their very own parents.

Although the majority of single and divorced parents selflessly dedicate their lives to ensuring that their children are guided by love of God, love of God’s law, and love of God’s creation, the average child raised in a broken family is deprived of the gifts of life in some way.  Slowly but increasingly, recent generations have been made “wound-bearers” by their parents and have to fend for themselves in ways not meant for children.  They are being hardened to life and to their surroundings.

But there is hope. A revival of the intact married family will imbue children with the love and care that all children ought to receive in order to reflect it back onto their environment. MARRI data shows that children raised in intact families are more social, exhibit less aggression, and practice better self-control than those in non-intact families, all necessary for salvaging the biological environment.

East Meets West

family, history, TV No comments
By Henry Potrykus


In a previous whitepaper, we described research that shows TV negatively affects family formation and family intactness. Here we want to report on a new, similar study  that shows Western television contributes to declining fertility rates.

In “Television Role Models and Fertility—Evidence from a Natural Experiment” two German econometricians looked at the effect of Western German programming on East German family formation over the Cold War.

During the first years of the Cold War, East Germany (GDR) was rather insular.  For the purpose of the study it isn’t important if the GDR was behind a physical wall; what matters is that Western TV reception was rigorously streng verboten (forbidden): There were campaigns to tear down West-facing antennae found on East German homes.

With the arrival of the Honecker government in 1971, things changed.  Détente arrived.  With it came Western TV showing East Germans the ‘Western family ideal’:  no kids.

Well, not all of East Germany saw this change.  Dresden was a black-out zone – not because Westerners didn’t want to reach it, but because of physics: The signal didn’t propagate all the way over there.

Throughout these changes, East German TV was comparatively pro-child.  Though women were still expected to be part of the economic-industrial machine, family was portrayed in a deliberately positive light.

So, we have a natural experiment:

Our German econometricians use the fact that Western TV “turned on” in the GDR in the 1970s, and that it never really got to Dresden, to show that Western TV reduced family size wherever it went.

Although their study is not (yet) as complete as the one we described in the whitepaper, it is another rather clear indicator that our role models out West affect who we become – or don’t become, in this case.  They affect us negatively when it comes to the fundamental ordering unit of society: the family.

With these important empirical studies, perhaps that old debate over whether programming affects us (negatively) is closer to settled.  Since there is still no shortage of zero-population growth-types around, whether this effect is pejorative may still be controversial.  One thing is sure: with the incipient decline of European nations (including Germany), fewer and fewer of their people will hold the opposing view.  Double entendre entirely intended.

The Widespread Impact of Marriage on Society

economy, family, society, United Nations No comments

Two weeks ago I made a presentation on The Family as The Agent of Economic Development and the Fundamental Safety Net at a conference at the United Nations that was sponsored by the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission, The Pontifical Council for the Family, and The UN Alliance of Civilizations.  I set the stage with the framework of the five basic institutions of society: The family, the church, the school, the marketplace, and the government. Each institution has its basic function or task within society; for family it is the sexual, for religion it is reflection, for education it is learning, for the marketplace it is production, and for government it is protection.

The presentation illustrated how society, in each of the five institutions, benefits from marriage. A sample item will serve as a brief synopsis of how marriage influences the economic marketplace. 

According to the Survey of Consumer Finance, the median income for the “married always intact” family is $82,270 while their net worth is $546,944. Both figures are substantially higher than any other household structure, whether married step, cohabiting intact, cohabiting step, separated, divorced, widowed, or never married.

Furthermore, when one seeks to discover what the contribution is from marriage to the general tax pool the data show that married couples contribute a staggering 40% more than two single individuals identical in all ways to the married couple even while they benefit from the tax deduction received for being married.  More data and analysis on this subject will be released by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute in the coming months.

This doesn’t even begin to look at myriad other impact such as the economic impacts of divorce or the marriage premium effect on male income.  But is only a small glimpse of the widespread influence of marriage on the five basic institutions of society. To read the entire presentation or to get a copy of the PowerPoint used during the presentation, please visit http://marri.us/un-holysee.

Sex, Robots, and the Future of the Family

economy, family, pornography, robots, sexuality 2 comments
The dystopia in Huxley’s Brave New World is quickly morphing into a terrifying reality.  According to the Wall Street Journal, within the next 10-15 years people will have the ability to customize lifelike robots to fulfill their sexual demands. Far from sexual liberation, intercourse with robots will inevitably yield a hedonistic cult of emotionless humans enslaved to their lustful passions and devoid of love or reason. Emotionally and economically, it will radically expedite the crumble of western civilization.
Sexual intercourse with customizable robots is akin to pornography on steroids—it will emotionally destroy human-human relationships and consequently eliminate the very basis of society: marriage. As “The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Family, and Community” shows, social scientists, clinical psychologists, biologists, and neurologists have all found that pornography distorts sexual relations. Men who habitually look at porn have a higher tolerance for sexual aggression and rape, tend to view women as “sex objects,” and generally experience sexual dissatisfaction. Because pornography is highly addictive, many users fall into sexually compulsive behaviors that render them unable to carry out a meaningful social and work life. Actually having sexual intercourse with a robot will exacerbate the consequences of pornography. Fewer human-human relationships will form because humans are not customizable like robots, and will simply be sexually unfulfilling. At the same time robots will not be sufficient because they lack any emotional connections. The human-human relationships that do form will be unstable because they do not provide the “perfect” physical sexual satisfaction that the robot once provided. Fewer children will be born since a robot cannot beget a child. And children who are artificially conceived will only have one parent (or perhaps one human parent one robotic stepparent?). The days of intellectual and spiritual conversations with your loved one, laughing to the point of tears, or cuddling while watching a movie will be over. Humans will be reduced to an animalistic state of solely fulfilling their appetitive soul. Nay, humans will fare worse—even animals cuddle.
Although it’s not too difficult to understand the emotional deprivations of having sexual intercourse with a robot, the negative economic implications are less apparent. But they are there, and they are extreme. First and foremost, intercourse with robots will deplete stable intact families because it will distort the basis of the family unit: a healthy sexual relationship between a married man and woman. MARRI research repeatedly proves that the intact married family (with a human mother and a human father) is the basis of economic security. “Marriage and Economic Well-Being: The Economy of the Family Rises or Falls with Marriage” shows that the intact married family produces the best economic outcomes of all family structures. On average, married-couple families generate the most income and have the greatest net worth. Poverty rates are significantly higher among cohabiting families and single-parent families than among married families. “The Divorce Revolution Perpetually Reduces U.S. Economic Growth” shows that marriage is a causal agent of economic growth. Specifically, it constitutes one third to one fourth of the human capital that household heads contribute to macroeconomic growth. “Non-Marriage Reduces U.S. Labor Participation: The Abandonment of Marriage Puts America at Risk of a Depression” and “Our Fiscal Crisis: We Cannot Tax, Spend, and Borrow Enough to Substitute for Marriage” explain how marriage protects the economy. Married men have a higher employment rate than unmarried men, and married families produce more children who are equipped with the essential skills to compete in the modern economy. The population shift towards non-marriage causally determines a large share of the decline of the adult male labor participation. Less Labor force participation plus less human capital equals a slowdown of economic growth. A slowdown of economic growth plus an increasing dependency on welfare equals an increasing budget deficit. As sexual intercourse with robots intended for lust replaces sexual relationships with humans intended for building families, economic decline will accelerate. 
Simply put, sexual intercourse with robots will emotionally destroy stable human-human relationships that produce intact families; a shortage of intact families will divest the economy of its greatest contributors. Sexual intercourse with robots will corrupt because it will violate the laws of nature and nature’s God; it will dehumanize because it will defy the rational and intellectual capacities of man; it will pervert because it will eliminate love from relationships. Ultimately, sexual intercourse with robots will be fatal because it will destroy the emotional and economic functioning of civilization.  

How the Family Protects Against Government Dependency

elections, family, government dependency No comments


Newly elected Republican leadership in the House and Senate is sure to usher in a wave of policy proposals, reforms, and disputes. A predictably significant debate already underway is the extent to which policy will encourage self-sufficiency rather than reliance upon government.
Between 2008 and 2011, household participation in government benefit programs rose from 45.3 percent to 49.2 percent. However, the majority of Americans favor independence to reliance on the commons (i.e. government re-distribution).  Of those polled, 74 percent believe that Americans are too dependent on government (87 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of Democrats expressed this view).

Encouragingly, there is a natural, efficient, and generally bipartisan remedy that will decrease government reliance and encourage self-sufficiency: the intact, married family. In 2011, federal and state governments spent over $450 billion on means-tested welfare for low-income families with children. Roughly three-quarters of this welfare assistance, or $330 billion, went to single-parent families. Notably, three-fourths of all women applying for welfare benefits do so because of a disruption of marriage.
For most measures of government dependency, family intactness is the leading influence (or shares the position of leading influence with the fraction of adult high school graduates). For instance, more adults in their first marriage (47 percent) have private health insurance than those who have been always single (23 percent), cohabit (6 percent), have divorced (10 percent), or have re-married (13 percent).
The influence of family intactness on independence is readily apparent in the breakdown of welfare recipients by family structure. Family intactness in a geographic area has the largest influence on average welfare transfers in that geographic area. This is not surprising because Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) primarily supports low-income women and their children. Only 16 percent of adult women who receive TANF or welfare are in their first marriage.
The fraction of intact families in a geographic area also has the largest influence on average Supplemental Security Income (SSI) transfers to men aged 25 to 54 (with controls applied for demographics, education, and earnings). Most men who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) have always been single (52 percent) or are divorced (17 percent).
Social science shows that intact families are more self-reliant and therefore have more options to direct their own lives; however, non-intact families are at the mercy of the government..
If the new majority will take the longer term view they will talk up the for parents, pastors and teachers to work to restore marriage in the nation for there is little that Congress can do to rebuild marriage (though there is a lot it can do (and has done) to damage marriage. The rebuilding will be done mainly by other institutions, but encouragement by leaders will be very helpful.     

Passing the Half Emptier Mark

children, family, MARRI, marriage No comments

Marriage was once seen as a permanent bond intended to promote monogamous love, spousal devotion, and childrearing. Today, however, many view marriage, or rather its deliberate avoidance, as a means of defying tradition, asserting feminist ideologies, and/ or avoiding commitment. Perhaps most alarming, the mainstream public is supportive but ignorant of the consequences of this shift. 
A Pew Study released Wednesday reveals that 50 percent of adults believe that society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children, whereas only 46 percent believe society is better off if people make marriage and having children a priority. However, social science data suggests otherwise. In marriage are contained the five basic institutions—the basic tasks—of society: family, church, school, marketplace and government. MARRI research has emphasized the multitude of benefits the intact, married family confers on children as they learn to value and perform these five fundamental tasks. A few of these advantages are highlighted below.
Family
Families with either biological or adoptive parents present have the highest quality of parent-child relationships,perhaps because marriage enhances an adult’s ability to parent. Married people are more likely to give and receive support with their parents and are more likely to consider their parents as means for possible support in case of an emergency.
Furthermore, those who marry experience increased commitment and stability. Men raised in married families have more open, affectionate, and cooperative relationships with the women to whom they are attracted than do those from divorced families. Correspondingly, married mothers report more love and intimacy in their romantic/spousal relationships than cohabiting or single mothers.
Church
A larger fraction of adults who grew up in an intact married family than from non-intact family structures attend religious services at least monthly. Those from married families are less likely to see religion decline in importance in their lives, less likely to begin attending church less frequently, and less likely to disassociate themselves from their religious affiliation.
School       
Children of married parents are more engaged in school than children from all other family structures. Individuals from intact families completed, on average, more years of schooling and were more likely to graduate from high school and college than were their peers raised in non-intact families. High school students in intact families have GPAs 11 percent higher than those from divorced families.
Marketplace
Intact married families have the largest annual incomeand  the highest net worth of all families with children (widowed families excepted).  Married couples file less than half of all income-tax returns, but pay nearly three-quarters of all income taxes. Marriage increases the income of single African-American women by 81 percent and single white women by 45 percent; African-American men also see an increase in income after marriage.
Government
Crime. Adolescents from intact families are less delinquent and commit fewer violent acts of delinquency. Likewise, a lower fraction of adults and youths raised in intact families are picked up by police than those from non-intact families.
Violence and Abuse. Marriage is associated with lower rates of domestic violence and abuse, in comparison to cohabitation.Correspondingly, Children in intact married families suffer less child abuse than children from any other family structure. Compared to teenagers from intact families, teenagers from divorced families are more verbally aggressive and violent toward their romantic partners.
Health. Married men and women are also more likely to have health insurance. A lower fraction of married than widowed, divorced or separated, never-married, or cohabiting persons have fair to poor health.  Married people are least likely to have mental disorders, and have higher levels of emotional and psychological well-being than those who are single, divorced, or cohabiting.
This data indicates that, contrary to popular opinion, society will not be “just as well off” if marriage and childrearing is neglected or even rejected. Marriage is the foundational relationship for all of society, and a prerequisite for a prosperous nation.
Thinking otherwise, half of Americans are out of touch with reality.
(For full citations, please see the MARRI’s synthesis paper “164 Reasons to Marry”)

Millennials: a Dilemma for Social Conservatives

chastity, child well-being, commitment, community, family, fathers, happiness, intact family, monogamy, mothers, parents 1 comment
Society is a network of relationships between its citizens. Each citizen’s capacity to relate to others increases or decreases the social cohesiveness and strength of a nation, and each one of those individual citizens’ capacities to relate has been significantly shaped by the family which formed them. As any family therapist will tell you, these family relationships, in turn, are significantly tied to the relationship between the father and mother of that family. As their marital relationship goes, so goes the intra-psychic strength and the social capacity of their children. The marital relationship changes everything in the family. Multiplied a hundred million times in the U.S., it has a massively compounding effect on society—for strength or weakness.

Thus, the relationship between the mother and father figures in a family is the most foundational relationship in society, the “DNA” that influences all the relationships that emanate from it. How the shopkeeper responds to his customers, or the professor to her students, is often quite tied to how they experienced their parents’ marriage. When a marriage breaks apart, it affects a child’s behavior and relational capacity. When a parental relationship is never transformed into marriage (e.g, in out-of-wedlock births or cohabiting households that break up) it alters the child’s social capacity.

Thus, the future of society is structured by the social ordering of this primary sexual relationship. That is the heart of the culture wars.

Change the DNA of the body, and you change the body by altering its whole functioning process. Alter the sexual relationship, and you alter everything else. Political philosophers are very aware of this. Marx and Engels saw this as absolutely necessary for their massive project: the permanent altering of society along the lines of their utopian dream.

Others see this connection even if they do not desire the same outcome as did Marx and Engels. Most bright Millennials understand it. They see that society has to pay a certain price for the sexual choices permitted to them today —choices that were not sanctioned in times past. They will even admit and accept that the innocent children of these sexual acts will have to pay the price. Many are prepared to see such prices paid, and therein lies the dilemma.

Marx and Engels wanted this sexual restructuring; many Millennials accept it. Though Millennials are certainly not all Marxists, it hardly matters: In the cultural and political contest of the day, they will stand aside and let the coercive liberal state march forward in the direction laid out by Marx and Engels.

Are we doomed to some form of coercive Marxist state as our future because of the sexual choices many in our society treasure? Other than widespread religious conversion, I do not see much potential for change in the right direction; hence, I invite your comments. Is religious conversion the only route?