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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?

The Comparative Health and Sickness of America’s Racial and Ethnic Groups

child well-being, children, family, generations, MARRI, marriage No comments

The National Center for Family and Marriage Research  at Bowling Green State University has just issued a research report on the rates of “first marriage” across different racial/ethnic groups. Interestingly, the ranking of those rates closely parallels the cross-racial/ethnic ranking of the Index of Family Belonging (the fraction of 15- to 17-year-olds who have grown up in an intact married family, which has not changed measurably in the last 3 years) published by The Marriage and Religion Research Institute.

Remarkably, Asians (whose Index of Family Belonging MARRI shows to be 65 percent) enter marriage at a rate of 6.2 percent (62 per thousand adults) each year. Whites have an Index of 54 percent, while they have a (first) marriage-entry rate of 51 per thousand adults. Hispanics have an Index of Family Belonging of 41 percent and an entry rate into first marriage of 40 per thousand native-born Hispanic adults (though the entry into first marriage among immigrant Hispanics is 60 per thousand immigrant adult Hispanics, illustrating that immigrant Hispanics are stronger on marriage and family than acculturated Hispanics). Black Americans have an Index of Family Belonging of 17 percent and an entry rate into first marriage of 20 per thousand adult Black Americans.

Overall, the United States presently has an Index of Family Belonging of 46 percent and an entry rate into first marriage of 45 per thousand adult Americans.

Thus, the proportion of children who grow up in an intact married family parallels the rate of entry into first marriage. That the ranking of the cross-racial/ethnic (childhood) family intactness and marriage entry rates resemble one another makes sense. It is interesting that the rate of entry into first marriage is markedly higher amongst immigrant Hispanics than among native-born Hispanics. This pattern of greater marital and family strength repeats itself across a number of measures on Hispanic Americans, indicating that America’s cultural influence is not always a blessing for immigrants, though clearly its material blessings are.

Because the marriage relationship is foundational to the future strength of the child when he or she becomes an adult, these data indicate that the next generation of Asian Americans may be our strongest racial/ethnic group and that they may continue to outpace other racial/ethnic groups. Sadly, it is likely that African American children (and, later, adults) will continue to fall further and further behind those from all other racial/ethnic groups.

Marriage has a massive and permanent effect on children. No other institution has a comparable influence on the life and wellbeing of a child. The implications of the decline of marriage in America have been clear for some time, as a different Bowling Green reportillustrates, and this means America may weaken into the future, as well, across myriad critical outcomes that spending alone cannot change. Such compensatory hopes are the basis of the welfare state. But the first human welfare is a married mother and father who stay so to raise their children in strength.

The People-Forming Institutions: Preparing the Soil

children, church, education, family, MARRI, religion, social institutions No comments
By: Patrick Fagan, MARRI Senior Fellow
      Avery Pettway, MARRI Intern

Although there are five basic institutions in society, only three of them are what I call “person-forming”.  The marketplace and government function to protect individuals and to provide for goods and services, but they do not function to directly form the individual.  It is the family, the church, and the school that shape character, instill moral principles (which are universal and timeless), and which develop the person as a whole.  Thus these three institutions serve society in this, the most foundational and critical of its long range tasks.  They each play a direct role in the formation of a person as he moves toward adulthood—additionally, the marketplace and government rely on the primacy of these three person-forming institutions in order to have people capable of serving in their economic and citizen roles.

Why are the institutions of family, church, and school able to form an individual while the institutions of marketplace and government are not?  The answer profoundly impacts our national discussion about policies and their implications.  Even more importantly, as we delve deeply into this question, we can see more clearly what it means to be human.

There is something foundational to human life that the institutions of marketplace and government simply cannot provide: it is the intimate relational formation of a person.  People’s deepest need is relational—love, care, affection, and personalized guidance.  In the family, a child finds the nurturing intimacy he needs.  In the church, he finds the relational intimacy with the divine that speaks to his soul’s questions.  In the school, through good relationships with his teachers, he learns how to understand the world in which he will soon act.  The marketplace and the government are the institutions through which he can later exercise who he has become through the shaping of his family, church, and school.  When it comes to directly forming who he is, however, marketplace and government have significantly less direct impact—though, in their proper context, laws can teach a great deal, and services from the dark side of the economy can corrupt (e.g. pornography).

As we will explore in future blog postings, the consequences are grave if we misunderstand the distinct nature of the person-forming institutions.  To return to our farming analogy: it is ignorant and futile for a farmer to expect abundant crops and sustainable returns without first preparing the soil for harvest, planting good seeds, and caring for the land.  Failure to do so results in stunted crop growth and insufficient income for the farmer.

Similarly, we must protect the “three sacred spaces” of family, church and school to permit the harmonizing of the person-forming tasks:  the family, where the child most deeply develops as a relating and belonging person; the church, where he orients himself to life and its big issues; and the school, where he learns about the world around him and how to make sense of it.  As the farming analogy shows, a child’s future productivity and stability depend on the person-forming institutions’ foundational actions.  Giving improper weight to the instrumental institutions—or disconnecting the person-forming ones from each other—will lead to societal destabilization (indeed, this is already happening).  When families are treasured and intact, when those families worship God weekly, and when schools aid the work of parents in teaching children according to their worldviews: children from such families thrive, and a society made of these families grows in well-being.  Such is the task of each generation—of all societies, across the globe.  These are universal truths.

Marital Intentions in Decline

cohabitation, family, intentions, MARRI, marriage, sexuality No comments

By: Patrick Fagan, MARRI Senior Fellow
      Avery Pettway, MARRI Intern

Jonathan Vespa’s study, “Historical Trends in the Marital Intentions of One-Time and Serial Cohabitors,” just published in February’s Journal of Marriage and Family, confirms what many sense: that among current child-bearing aged women attitudes towards marriage have shifted downwards, mainly through the influence of cohabitation, which is increasingly serial.

Vespa finds two compounding associations within present cohabitation trends.

  1. The downward trend in marital intentions holds steady and is significant even when controlling for serial cohabitation.
  2. There is an additional negative association between serial cohabitation and decreased marital intentions. Serial cohabitants (a rising percentage of ever-cohabited women) are less likely to enter a cohabiting relationship with plans to marry (to varying degrees, dependent on whether it is the first, second, or third union) than are one-time cohabitants. 

In short, a woman in today’s world entering a cohabiting relationship is less likely to have marital intent, and she is even still more less-likely to have marital intent if she is a serial cohabitant.

Cohabitation used to be an intentional (though relatively uncommon) stepping stone to marriage for women who engaged in it but that switched with women who were born between 1963 and 1967, and the pattern has continued unwaveringly since then.

Bottom line:  There is more of a disconnect between sexual intercourse, cohabitation and marriage.  Cohabitation is increasingly accepted as an independent entity, and choosing it has nothing to do with expecting marriage or choosing marriage.

Vespa’s study reveals that compared to women in the youngest cohort (born between 1978 and 1982), women in the oldest cohort (born between 1958 and 1962) had odds of having marital intentions that were 1.40 times higher. Such data suggests that America’s cultural assumption that marriage is sexuality’s end goal is dwindling more and more.

This obviously threatens the health (and rate) of marriage and the institution of the family’s person-forming power. As serial cohabitation rises, marital intentions decrease, and the two compound to push marriage even further into the recesses of the American mind, the stable familial space in which children have been consistently and healthily formed for generations will continue to weaken and with it the future America will be similarly weakened.  As we are seeing (and as, I predict, we will continue to see), what plagues the family plagues the other foundational social institutions of Church, School, Marketplace, and Government. As marriage becomes more of a mental side note to our sexual practices, relational instability will continue to increase first in the family, followed later by relational instability in the other institutions (as the child grows into them as an adult).

Vespa isolated the increasing disconnect between sexual union and marriage.  The country has yet to feel anxious about its effects on the children, their education, the economy and the capacity of our country to govern itself.

The Basic Tasks of Society

chastity, economy, education, family, generations, religion No comments

By: Pat Fagan, MARRI Senior Fellow
      Joshua Kelsey, MARRI Intern

As is shown in the diagram above, it is helpful to understand society as a relationship between five basic institutions or the five fundamental tasks: Family, Church, School, Marketplace, and Government.  Each institution is really a gathering of people to perform a core task that is essential and irreplaceable.  If all five tasks are well-performed, society is doing well. If one of them is not engaging properly with its given task, society begins to limp. If two institutions don’t perform well, society’s limping gets more pronounced, and so on.
At the base of society lies the family—the begetting and raising of children, the next generation.   Without this task society will disappear.  Because the family is focused on producing the next generation, it harnesses sexuality for its ultimate end.  Because children need the love and care of both their father and their mother (and thrive better when such is the case), marriage is the solid foundation.  Though the child comes naturally from sexual union (very little work), marriage comes only with a lot of work and effort.   Since everything else in the society relies on the strength of the family, marriage is key to the success of society as a whole.  A society is as vibrant as its fathers and mothers are solidly married.  The object of it all is the next generation.
The church (shorthand for all religions—church, synagogue, mosque) is where man can orient himself to the big questions of existence:  Is there right and wrong, life after death, a creator God?  Should I keep my word, love those in my family, forgive those who hurt me, give to the needy?  This is important work and like everything else in life, the more one works at something the better he does it.  Worshiping God in community normally involves all these aspects of this task of religion.  As this blog will illustrate repeatedly, the more people worship the better they do—on every outcome.  This little known finding is so universal and so powerful that it ought to be commonplace in our national thinking and discussion.  Its object is the good person. 
School (education) is the task of passing on critical knowledge to the next generation so that they can build upon the knowledge already gained from previous generations.  Education almost always has two actors: the pupil and the teacher, the player and the coach.  Education is not confined to the classroom: it goes on, first, foremost and most powerfully, in the home; it goes on at work; in the cinema; in the library; in the newspaper.   Its objective is passing on sound knowledge and insights.
These three institutions—family, church and school— are all “people forming” institutions; they “grow” the person.  Their object is the “goodness of each individual”.
The marketplace is where we meet our physical needs of shelter, food, and clothing—a most fundamental task, without which we would die.  We gain these physical goods through an exchange of our labor for the goods we need.  Savings are stored labor of the past (our labor or others’).  The more productive labor a nation has, the more goods it has.  Working, and learning to work productively, is a key task of the family: both for its own continued existence and for the capacity of the next generation to feed, clothe and shelter itself.  When people refuse to work, they become dependent on others for their needs—this weakens society and, ipso facto, reduces the economy.
The government has the task of using force for the good of society, mainly protecting our freedoms from “bad people”:  external enemies of the intruding armies of attacking nations, or internal enemies who would rob, injure or kill us or our family or friends.  Because both threats exist, it is the primary job of the government to protect its citizens from both these evils.  Laws lay out what government considers right and wrong, and it backs this up with the policeman, the judge, the jail, or even the execution… all manifestations of force, even the ultimate force of death.  For this reason, our police need to be above reproach, for they alone have the power to execute on the spot.  No other person in society has this power.  The object of government is to protect its citizenry’s right to do good.
These two institutions, though they have some influence on the person, are not primarily “people forming institutions”.  They are there on behalf of the instruments needed to live:  physical needs and safety. They are instrumental institutions.
All of these fundamental tasks of society are not only important—they are irreplaceable.  And at the foundation of them all is the first, the family.  Thence comes the next generation and every actor in every institution.  There also are all these basic tasks executed… family, religion, education, marketplace and government.  Thus it is there that the education of the future citizen in all five tasks begins and is most shaped.
Thus the most important of all tasks is the bringing of the next generation (the baby) into existence.   Therefore the most important relationship in society is that of the relationship between father and mother.  The stronger that relationship, the stronger the children (as all the data continuously illustrate). 
The way marriage is structured and carried out determines the functioning of the rest of society. 
The presence or absence of marriage structures the family, and as family is structured so is society structured—strongly or weakly, in every institution: the family itself, the church, the school, the marketplace and the government.
These relationships are as powerful as the laws of physics: they cannot be denied, overlooked, evaded or cast aside without society crumbling.  Many societies today seem intent on that pathway, but that is for future blogs and for the data to illustrate. 

This paradigm of the five basic institutions is the framework within which we will blog on the research MARRI does and that others of note do.   Tune in for continued education, and join in for continued discourse!

Life: a Matter of Convenience?

abortion, child birth, children, economics, family, pro-life No comments

By Avery Pettway, Intern

       Though pro-life advocates can rejoice that the crux of the debate is no longer the question of when life begins, we continue on in an often frustrating conversation with pro-choice commentators. With the life of the fetus scientifically confirmed, choice advocates have become more fixated on nuances and thought patterns that can emotionally inflame the public while distracting from the reality of what abortion is. Amanda Marcotte’s recent article in Slate, “AUL’s ‘Life List’ Crowns the ‘All Star’ States That Attack Women’s Rights Best,” harps on what she claims is the safety imbalance between “extremely low-complication abortions” and the “condition known as child birth that usually requires hospitalization and much more invasive medical interventions.” Indeed, it is difficult at some level to foresee arguments such as this one because of their unfounded logical assumptions, but nevertheless, we must combat them with reason and research.

        For starters, Marcotte’s assertion that “child birth is 14 times more dangerous than legal abortion” is false according to the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Pregnancy and childbirth may be laborious and intense, but it is a natural process of the life cycle supported and strengthened by modern technology—abortion, on the other hand, is far from a natural process and should be regarded skeptically because of how it surreptitiously invades the bodies of women and children.
        Even more troubling than inaccurate information, however, is Marcotte’s underlying claim that our basis for judging whether to encourage child birth or abortion is which one is physically less taxing on the woman. If we were to carry out Marcotte’s claim to its logical end, choosing the apparent ease of abortion over time and energy-intensive pregnancies, our society would be in demographic and economic (not just moral) disaster. MARRI research reveals the disturbing extent to which our abortion policy harms our population stability and economic growth. Marcotte’s argument that abortion is less physically dangerous and less expensive than pregnancy quickly breaks down under the study’s finding that “the overall social and economic burdens of the changes created through legalizing abortion eclipse any claimed benefits of the practice…the act undermines the economy, causes disease, and warps society’s most important relationship [of marriage].” When pro-choice advocates are numb to moral accusation, perhaps well-founded portents such as MARRI’s research will strike a new chord with them.

Marriage-Minded Community: The Wide Scope of New Research

children, community, family, MARRI, marriage No comments

 By Avery Pettway, Intern
          A new Harvard study released this month entitled “Where is the Land of Opportunity?: The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States” provides expanded insight and a refreshing new weight to the findings of previous MARRI research. As Brad Wilcox of the National Marriage Project explains in his January 22 article in Slate, this new study takes center stage because it is “the first major study showing that rates of single parenthood at the community level are linked to children’s economic opportunities over the course of their lives.” Experts in the realms of social science and social advocacy have long been pushing for greater attention to be given to the relation between a child’s well-being and the marital status of his parents. And as our own research has revealed, social trends in which the state has a significant interest—particularly the educational success and productive potential of children—are shaped in large part by family intactness. Another MARRI study found that while education, income, race, and ethnicity are all factors to be considered when determining positive outcomes for children, they fall short in significance compared to the level of family intactness. Harvard’s study in effect joins hands with MARRI’s findings, showing the tight link between individual family units and the entire community when it comes to the effects of broken family structure.

To many, the assertion that having married parents helps kids do better in school and in life may seem like the beating of a dead horse—but in fact, such claims are only one facet of a large and problematic reality that we as a society will soon face. Not only does single parenting put the child at greater risk of continued poverty or stagnancy—that parent’s entire community takes a blow. To understand this fully, we must consider the implications of this research in terms of which family status to promote. Marriage must be the encouraged norm of a community in order for people to thrive. In this healthy, stable, relational space, the less common single parents who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances can have the support of a married community to aid them. The intact majority bolsters the non-intact few, and all can be pushed towards mobility and strength—so long as marriage is the dominant culture of the community.

On the other hand, when single parenthood grows and marriage weakens, incomplete parental support becomes the defining culture of the area, ultimately leading a community away from economic mobility and health. As the proportion of those who need stabilizing aid grows relative to those who can give stabilizing aid, that community is already regressing and cannot offer much hope of upward mobility to its children. Encouraging marriage in the political and social realms is not intended to disregard or disrespect the single mother—in fact, as the Harvard study reveals, her children and her neighbors’ children are in theory at a disadvantage if we fail to foster a better alternative. Sadly the subjects of the study—single parents and broken family structure—are becoming more the norm in the United States as divorces increase, out-of-wedlock births rise among many people groups, and marriage loses public and political esteem. If we hope to avoid this broken outcome becoming our national standard of success, married couples must be the driving force in encouraging and supporting marriage for their communities.

Does Absence Really Make the Heart Grow Fonder?

adoption, child well-being, children, economics, family, mothers No comments

By MARRI Intern

Olivia Walton from The Waltons and June Cleaver from Leave It to Beaver are just two idealistic television mothers who shaped the idea of what moms were supposed to be. Throughout the years, we have seen drastic changes in the role that women are expected to have in society. Women can be torn between societal expectations and what they personally desire. This is often the case when they are faced with the choice (or the need) to work outside the home, especially if they have young children.
The ratio of stay-at-home moms to mothers who are work full-time outside the home has fluctuated greatly over the years. An articlefrom the UK Daily Mail that was published this past spring highlighted the great value contributed by stay-at-home moms. Not only does their staying home benefit the child or children involved, but it benefits society as a whole, because strong families are the foundation of a strong society.
The attachment theory developed by the psychologist John Bowlby (1907-1990) states that a child needs to be in a loving, stable environment with a consistent primary caregiver in order to develop in a healthy manner. The above noted Daily Mail article noted that the first three years of a child’s life are the most critical years of development and that the child’s greatest need is to feel loved and secure. How the child is treated and the relationships which are established within the first three years are good predictors of the child’s future. However, if this is true and the majority of mothers are in fact working full-time, how will this affect our society?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012 about 70.5 percent of women who had children 18 years old and younger were in the workforce. When mothers spend the majority of their time working outside of the home, their children may not be able to establish a secure attachment to them, especially when they are younger. This attachment is critically important for the child’s development and foundational to all of their future relationships. Depression and behavioral issues are common childhood outcomes linked back to the lack of a secure attachment with their mother (or primary caregiver), the Daily Mail post above states. Sadly, this often means that the child’s needs were not met emotionally or, perhaps at times, physically.
Typically, attachment theory has been associated with the issue of adoption, particularly because it can be difficult to establish a secure attachment if the child is adopted at an older age.  However, whether the child concerned is adopted or one whose primary caregiver is in the workforce, it is of vital importance to establish this deep connection. Additional information on adoption and attachment theory can be found within thisMARRI publication on the benefits of adoption.