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Phase 6 of The Father- Son Relationship: Young Manhood

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My son, as a young man you are already master of your own ship and free to sail any sea and visit any port! But no matter what you do, the single biggest task ahead of you is choosing your wife, you companion for life. She will have a huge effect on your life and what the sum total of it will be in the end.

Over the years we have talked a lot about matters sexual so that you prepare yourself to thrive sexually. Once married you begin that wonderful sexual exchange. Most moderns think they have to “try it out” first to see if they are compatible, but they have it all wrong.

In the chart below from a national federal government survey you see a pattern that has been replicated many times: Sex before marriage is a threat to the marriage, and therefor to children and the future of society.  Because most moderns are totally unaware of this threat, and given its implications for the stability of marriage and family and its impact on the children of these men and women — and thus on all society— I think this is the most important chart in all of the social sciences. 

Add to this that those who enjoy the sexual the most are virgins at marriage who worship God weekly. They have the most rewarding sexual relations,[1] and the most enduring marriages. These insights have motivated me to raise you to be chaste. Your future wife will be very grateful.

I assume you will select a chaste girl. Anyone else is a big risk. But there are other important criteria for selecting your future wife, and, though some think it too calculating to consider all the attributes you want in your wife, I don’t, because, done right, it gets you thinking the right way. You can daydream about the physical attributes you desire but those attributes will likely fly out the door when you meet “her.” 

What do you want most in her?  I suspect the most important attribute is kindness. A kind person loves in small details, and your life together will be made up of millions of small details with occasional big ones thrown in.  

The next attribute is ‘hard work’: Is she tough on herself when it comes to work? Life is made up of loads of hard work.

Cheerfulness ranks very high. To be with a cheerful person is always so much easier. And you will be with her for the rest of your life. Better still: Can she stay cheerful even when she suffers?

Kind, hardworking and cheerful! That is a winning combination for a great partner — assuming you, too, are kind, hardworking and cheerful. When you spot such a woman do not waste any time: You will have lots of competition.  But make sure you see her in her family setting. That is where her “ordinary self’ is most likely to be seen. How she treats her family is how she will treat you, once the honeymoon phase has passed.

However, this first level of “filtering” is not enough. You both will have to assess openly whether you are “in the same business.” What is it you both want to have achieved together by age 70? And what do you want to be remembered for after you die?

The biggest issue for agreement is having children, for they will be your biggest, toughest project. Bringing new persons into existence is the greatest thing you will do together, and it is the ultimate purpose of marriage. This used to be an easy decision for women in the past: Culture shaped this expectation. Today women have professional choices and often have invested heavily in acquiring professional competence, and an anti-culture pushes in the opposite direction. Women today have more weighing up and deciding to do. They can “have it all” if they live a normal length because early childbirth gives both children and a long career later in life, whereas postponing child raising can lead to childlessness or a much smaller family than desired. Some women can manage both at the same time but normally with fewer children and more stress. You need to discuss this before getting engaged. Children are at the heart of marriage and you both need to agree.

How many children you have will be determined (all other things being equal) by the size of your heart and her heart. However, all things are never equal, so each child is a new decision. And this gets us to the heart of sexual relations and the huge mistake most modern couples make: They choose to contracept as their way to decide the size of their family. But, given the evidence we now have on the effects of contraception, we know that it is not only a stupid move, it is also an anti-human move. And, given its effects on communications within marriage, it is bad for the children too.[2]  Also deciding to contracept is deciding not to talk about having children! For many it is hard to break that silence… and they get into the habit of avoiding “tricky areas,” a real danger in marriage. (By the way both the pill and NFP have similar rates of success in spacing children). 

The best way to go is to enjoy sexual relations the way God made them: Natural intercourse, fully experienced. It is much more enjoyable, as long as you both are ready. But it will get tricky for your wife if you, her husband, are not very attuned to her pregnancy desires. Some couples want and are capable of having as many children as they can.  They don’t count the cost, are prepared to pay the bill and they just “go for it.”  But many couples are much more cautious or fearful. As a good husband you will always be aware of your wife’s stance on having a new child and will conduct yourself accordingly. You both will talk about this a few times each month. At times (at her request) you will restrain yourself. Your wife will know she has a gift of a man who is concerned to never force sexual relations on her when she is afraid (for whatever reason) of conceiving another child. And when you resume it is like a new honeymoon. It really helps keep marriage alive.

The whole world knows that Catholics are supposed to practice sexual intercourse this natural family planning way, but what the world does not know is that the biggest reason many Catholic women turn to the pill is they don’t trust their husbands’ ability to be self-controlled and not to “use” them!

The couples who control their fertility through bio-tracking and communicating about it are — rather naturally, over time, great communicators. The acquired ability to communicate in this delicate area develops the ability in other critical areas.

Though sex is one tough area for young couples to talk about clearly, it has a rival: Money. It is will be very enlightening for you and your fiancée to make a joint budget, before engagement, on how you are going to use your combined monies, not just for the first year — that is easy when you are both working — but for the years you will have your first and second child. Budgets are sobering and bring you right into the “non-romantic” part of life where unity is more difficult but also much more important.[3]  If you both agree in advance on your budget are off to a great start. If you agree on both children and money have it made! I hope you do this hard work before you get engaged. You both will then have an enormous sense of “the freedom of togetherness” when you have it done.

Such togetherness and unity will determine the strength of your children. No matter what else you achieve, nothing compares to bringing children into the world and raising them as strong adults. Bill Gates’s three children are a much bigger contribution to the human race than is his Microsoft. They are priceless, Microsoft is not. The market puts a price tag on it every day. It will disappear; they will exist forever, and their children and so on for generations to come. You might achieve much more than Bill and Melinda Gates if you want to… with the right woman.  


[1] Laumann, Gagnon, Michael and Michaels; “The Social Organization of Sexuality”  (1994) and Michael and Gagnon “Sex in America, a Definitive Study” (1994).

[2] And there is increasing evidence of biological harm to children — sometimes.

[3] In days of arranged marriages budgets were a key part of the negotiations.  The parents did the math.  Today young couples have to do that unromantic work.  Like of old, it is best done before the deal is struck. It is a key part of marital dependence on each other.

Phase 5 of the Father Son Relationship: Growing in manly sexuality from the beginning.

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You may remember my promises to you when you were a baby. Among them were:

I will teach you how to spot and win the sexual battles that will take place inside your head and your heart.

I will teach you why you should not masturbate. (Your wife will thank me — without ever telling me).

I will teach you how to have the sexual control you will need for your marriage bed.

The most strategic battles on matters sexual take place in your mind, heart and imagination,  just as they do still for me, and did for your grandfathers and all men who have ever lived. This is a battleground littered with fallen soldiers. Many men get wounded and pay a heavy price before recovering. Some men never recover. Some men cease to be soldiers and become “sexual terrorists”.

The sexual energy within us is much like the energy of the atom: it can be harnessed for great good. From it came you, your sisters and your brothers and all your cousins and all the friends you love to be with. However, like the atomic bomb, sexual energy can be massively destructive, when children are aborted, spouses are unfaithful and marriages break up, when sexual abuse or deep marital conflict distorts the sexuality of children, who, when they become adults, in turn often damage others.

The prefrontal cortex in the two lobes of your brain do two different types of tasks: one side is oriented to being creative in the discovery of new things and in exploring the world; while it is doing that, the other side spots and avoids dangers. As you drive a car, you need both sides working well: the side that gets you to your destination and the side that avoids the accidents you or others could cause along the way if you did not brake, or turn, or signal at the right moment. You could say one side is liberal and creative, moving on to new goals while the other side is conservative: preserving the good you already have by keeping it safe. Every issue in life needs both these capacities. 

In matters sexual there is the creative dimension (union with an attractive spouse and the generation of children) and a protective dimension: avoiding traps and dangers. The dangers are not always on the outside. Many of them pop up from inside: the images that jump, unbidden, into your imagination, or when a beautiful woman passes do you “look” at her (as opposed to seeing her), i.e. assess her physical beauty and even begin to daydream about her. You cannot avoid developing habits in this domain; the issue is which habits you choose to develop. This is a big fork in the road in the life you will choose for yourself (and for your future spouse and children): letting “sex go wild” in your imagination or controlling it for its true purpose. Bad habits can grow from seemingly small habits: looking at an attractive woman a second time or, on the other hand, deliberately looking away and entertaining other thoughts and images. You will be tempted in many other ways in the years to come: watching movies that arouse you sexually (the directors know what they are doing — as do the actors and actresses); going to places or bars you know will lead to similar temptations; going to parties that lean that way.  The list will grow as you grow older.  

That you feel these attractions and sexual desires is natural – you are a man and your hormones are sending you all sorts of mating messages. But you have to decide — and decide early — you are going to enjoy these sexual pleasures only with the one person who will be yours for life, after you both have pledged yourselves to each other in matrimony.  

To so decide, and to keep your promise, will take training. But the benefits are great — and will spill over into many other areas in your life:

  • You will become prudent as you develop a sixth sense of when events are likely to lead in the wrong direction.
  • You  will develop the virtue of temperance as you deliberately grow the habit of not enjoying an innocent pleasure (like a good ice cream) so that you will have at your disposal the capacity to resist forbidden pleasures when you need to. 
  • You will gain wisdom as you talk these things out with someone you trust – me your father, or a good teacher, or a priest— someone you admire and can trust as you learn how to battle and learn how to heal the wounds from battles lost. These are people who love you and also understand this war (they have to fight it too) and will teach you how to move forward. 
  • You will grow in courage and humility as you talk about battles lost.  Catholic Christians have the added benefit of Confession – for this and other wounds in the battle for virtue.
  • You will grow in piety: having regular quiet time with God as you talk it all through with Him also.  For Catholic Christians it makes sense to talk it through with the Mother of God. Everyone who does reports great help in this area. 
  • You will grow as a friend – as you help your friends avoid situations before they develop and as you call on your friends when you need support for a battle that looms.

The wonderful thing about this battle is the joy and happiness it brings; losing the battle always brings sadness and a big letdown.  Beforehand, the temptation promises a false happiness that looks fantastic but afterwards leaves a bad taste.  It is a fool’s gold.  Did you know that the data show that those who are virginal when they marry, and who worship God weekly, have the best and most frequent sexual pleasure!! This is one of life’s biggest secrets. Virtually no one knows this.

These battles will come your way in your teen years, starting with puberty. Twenty and thirty years from now you will still have to fight them —when you travel alone or when you are in business situations that could cause you temptations.  To be faithful to your wife and your children decades into the future, you need to start now.  It is wise to learn to battle from the beginning, and it is much easier. 

One area of battle for every male is the temptation to masturbate. Many moderns believe it is all right, but they are fooling themselves and ignoring ancient wisdom and modern research.  Pornography addiction happens only through masturbation. 

Masturbation, when practiced frequently, changes the mind, the imagination and the heart: the object of pleasure becomes an internal image, not a real person.  When this becomes habitual — as happens with frequent use of pornography — it can lead to a sexual disability — erectile dysfunction (ED) — which means that a man cannot fully satisfy his wife because he has lost his capacity to be aroused except by pornographic images. ED used to be an old man’s debility.  Now, because pornography is so widespread Viagra and other pharmacological props have a huge market among young men who suffer from this psychosexual disease. 

Pornography is so destructive that boys and men can lose their natural interest in women — in Japan, which has a long tradition of pornography, a significant portion of single 30-year-olds have lost interest in the opposite sex. Married men can lose interest in their wives — and instead become obsessed with print and digital pictures, or only be able to make love to her by having these images in his mind.  By this stage they are in deep trouble in all the areas related to their sexuality: their intimate family relations, their friendships and their readiness to relate with God. The good news is it is possible to overcome this addiction, but it is better by far to take the path to becoming a chaste young man. 

There is another practical reason to live purity: to gain that control of one’s sexuality that a married man needs so as to be able to do without sex for a while, for his wife’s sake: A wife, who for whatever reason shouldn’t get pregnant, has to be able to rely on her husband’s self-control during her peak fertility days. Many women do not have such husbands and as a result use contraceptives[1].  Thus, a husband who lacks self-control becomes a grave danger to his wife and his marriage. 

Purity of mind, heart and imagination results in a cheerful happiness that makes life worth living, a cheerfulness that is very attractive, and that good women spot quickly. Purity is a great ringer of wedding bells and a great aphrodisiac.

I hope you will come to me when you have questions.  And I hope you begin to pray to your future wife’s guardian angel, too.  By the way, belief in guardian angels is universal.  It cuts across all levels of religious practice (including those who never worship), all cultures, and all religions. 

On every level there are very strong reasons for deciding to be pure and wholesome. Your happiness, your future wife’s happiness and your children’s happiness depend on it.


[1] Within the year we will have a series of synthesis papers on the psychological, sociological, demographic, biological and neurologica effects of contraception. They are myriad.

Phase 2 of the Father-Child Relationship (years three to nine or ten): Consolidation of Affection and Solidarity with an Eye to the Future

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From age three onwards the infant gradually becomes a boy.  And this is most noticeable in his play.  

All children love to play. Most boys like ball games: Kicking and throwing. They love horseplay (as long as it does not get too overpowering… a judgement call by the father, child by child). The goal is confidence in Dad as source of fun and protection. The horseplay is for the enjoyment of the child– not the father. It really helps consolidate the boy’s sexual identity as male when done with common sense.

The observant father now will begin to spot the different inclinations of his children (and draw on his wife’s observations as well). Their inclinations and strengths become occasions for father to affirm his son in these (be they quarterback-football or tiddlywinks or drawing).  To be affirmed in his strengths by his father is one of life’s great experiences for a boy. And it lasts a life time.

Gradually, over the next years the father tells his children about his own inclinations and gifts: What he enjoys doing, what he is good at, what he likes in his hobbies, his friends, his fellow workers (learning about persons and life). What he loves about his life: His wife– their mother, about his children, and his friends. He does this not to boast but to illustrate to them that it is good to revel in the gifts life has granted him so that they too will revel in the gifts life has granted them. He follows this with his own reveling in their gifts. Thus, he grows confidence deep inside his children. This capacity for confidence and appreciation is the foundation of a great sexual relationship with his spouse later on—twenty years or more from this phase.

Children love to be read to, and the books the father chooses will have quite an impact on them.  If he knows books, he can direct their reading. His wife also plays a big part here. If they don’t know books they can use my wife’s “A Mother’s List of Books”[1] which contains decades of experience in choosing books that are interesting (they have to be enjoyable for the child) yet model good character (or at least not undermine it as most modern children’s books do, especially on the role of the father).  If you do not believe me: Go and check out the books in the children’s section of your local public library.  The tentacles of NOW reach deep into all crannies of child formation including this one… and have for a long time.

If ever in doubt classic fairytales are a good bet. Young children love them— that is why they have survived.

Though they love having stories read to them they are absolutely taken with stories their father creates for them— no matter how corny, no matter what his level of skill in creating or telling them. What they love is the love he is showing them. They will ask for more and more. And father can compose the outlines as he travels and works.

During this phase another great theme and attitude is laid down by the wise father: Modesty. 

Father will lightly form their attitude towards the bodies of others: Privacy of all in the bathroom, especially those of opposite sex. Boys do not enter their sisters’ bedroom, nor girls their brothers’. None enter their parent’s bedroom. Even with parents present, they knock and wait to be invited. 

A boy learns from his father that nobody else ever touches the private parts of his body… except Mother or Father when ill or the doctor in his office. No one else! And he is trained that he should tell his parents if anybody tries . Anywhere! Anyone! Father or Mother or both will deal with that person. And if an adult is the one who touched them his parents will ensure that person goes to  jail. And they will make sure their child knows that they are never at fault or guilty in such a situation. It is always the adult, never the child.  It is a pity, but in this day of sexual license and sexual abuse parents have to both protect children more and teach their children how best to protect themselves.

The boy is taught by his father to treat his own body well: Not touch his penis except at toilet and washing. He learns to keep it private: Hence these parts of the body are called “private parts.”  (This is laying the groundwork for teaching him about masturbation when he is comes into puberty.  Self-control during puberty, in turn, is remote preparation for the male being a great lover of his spouse later on. This is not neurotic anxiety but quite the opposite: It is preparing his son to be great in bed — without talking about it at this too early stage).

It is a pity but during this phase fathers now have to begin preparing their sons to handle pornography — by shunning it the first time they see it and coming to him with any question the experience provokes (and there will be all sorts of questions).  Father gets across that the body is sacred —-  always sacred, but that some wicked people exploit this.  He lets his son know his confidence in him that he will know when a picture is not right, and to always feel free to come to  him – or his mother – for they are the experts on the body. Again, with the breakdown in sexual mores and taboos this initial education in pornography is now needed as early as eight years of age… maybe even sooner!  It is a judgement call best arrived at by discussion between both parents.

Somewhere along the way… listening to his questions about babies and where they come from— father or mother give enough information to satisfy the questions asked, but do not go overboard. A light touch builds confidence in the son— confidence in approaching his parents on these issues— that father (or mother) will be his guide on this and he can always come to his father with any questions.

With an eye to the coming teenage adolescent years:  Making friends with other families you really like. 

When children are young they make friends with ease. Put them together and they play easily. Wise parents avail of this phase so that their children have good friends BEFORE they reach their teenage years.  Then when puberty hits, they have the friends of early childhood as their peer group in adolescents – all from good families, families who help each other through their children’s adolescent years. These early friendships will transfer easily to the teenage years and from these will grow many of the deeper friendships that emerge in adolescence, and among whom mixed groups will be natural  among the brothers and sisters of those they played with in single sex groups during this phase two.

Parents who neglect to do this will realize their mistake when it is too late to do much about it and their children have made friends the parents are not happy with, but at time when it is too late to do what could have been done with ease five years earlier: Shepherding them towards good friendships with children whose parents know how to cultivate character.  This has nothing to do with family income or status, but with the character of parents who know what character is and how to form it in their children.

The next phase covered will be early adolescence.


[1] I know it is a plug, but her  booklet is a classic — owned and used for decades by thousands of mothers across the country.  Email her at tafagan@juno.com for more details.  It is a plug.  But if there were a better one to plug I would do so.  There is not!

“The American Family’s View of Itself”

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Someone’s else’s blog was so informative it replaces mine this week: Karlyn Bowman of The American Enterprise Institute, a veteran scholar of public opinion, condenses BYU’s annual survey 52-page report on the American Family to one page, though I do recommend scanning the report itself for great charts on many key measures. Bottom line: Though marriage is still very important to three quarters of the nation — for conservatives and for liberals — there is still a lot of work to be done.

Rebuilding Our Nation One Son at A Time

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The way to rebuild our nation is to do what all good men have always done: raise their sons to be great husbands and fathers.

As his newborn son is placed in his father’s arms for the first time, the young father (even if he cannot formulate the words) says to his son:

I give you my heart always and give you my time early in your life—  to bind you to me with affection (when it is easy to do).  On this foundation we will build the rest. Nothing else compares to this, not a successful business, nor great honors —-nothing else — except loving your mother.

My greatest task is to make a great husband and great father of you.

I will teach you what paths to walk so that you will desire to be good.

In your growing years I will be your guardian and protector.

I will protect you from sexual abuse.

I will teach you how to protect yourself from sexual abuse.

I will protect you from pornography within our home.

I will teach you how to protect yourself from pornography anywhere you come across it.

I will teach you how to treat your own body.

I will teach you how to regard the bodies of women.

I will teach you how to listen carefully to women and hear what they mean .

I will teach you how  to treat all women, so they will know you are a man of good intentions.

I will teach you how to spot and win the sexual battles that will take place inside your head and your heart.

I will teach you why you should not masturbate. (Your wife will thank me — without ever telling me).

I will teach you how to have the sexual control you will need for your marriage bed.

I will teach you how to date well, and how to select and court a great wife from among all the beautiful women you will meet.

My little one, because of all of this you are going to make a great man of me.

As men put this into practice, by taking sex-ed out of the schools and back into the home where it belongs, all of society will adapt around this strategic shift.  By exercising this basic natural right, every father will cause society to rearrange itself around his actions — in ways that restore social order.

The solution is simple though taxing: Fathers raise their boys to be great husbands and great fathers.

Sex, Fathers, and the Future

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The total population of North, Central, and South America is less than a billion.  Europe’s population is much less.  Africa’s population is about one billion.

In the last 100 years the world has eliminated one billion children through abortion. In other words, whole continents. World War II was a walk in the park compared to this. The US alone has aborted 58 million infants (the total  population of the US as it came into the twentieth century,  and almost the same as the total populations killed in World War II, the bloodiest war in human history.  The “body-count” in the Holocaust pales in comparison to this, US-only “body count”. Clearly, we “do sex” wrong.  Humankind has never, ever,  “done it” so wrong. 

In the US, for children who survive pregnancy and make it to birth, most of their parents cannot stand each other enough to live their lives together and raise their children to adulthood.  Slavery has returned to the US—in the form of sex trafficking.  Pornography addiction (to some degree or other) is almost universal among young men. Cohabitation is the majority’s choice despite the widespread knowledge of its bad effects. STDs are “through the roof and are now mega epidemics — having been epidemic for decades.  Motherhood is frowned upon in the academic world and most business put up with mothers only because they are forced to if they want female workers.  The list could go on and on— and that is without going near what is being taught and not taught in churches— of all denominations! 

As a society we have really lost our way.  Leaders in all institutions have lost their way or their courage. There are some who know how to “do it” but most don’t, or are afraid, and public schools and academia are not only totally lost, they lead down the wrong and debilitating path — even in the face of overwhelming data. Proof?  Just look around you.

Where do we start to rebuild? 

This rebuilding starts with men — with fathers in particular. 

The fundamental correction involves all fathers taking back from everyone else the sexual education of their sons. Mothers need to do the same for their daughters. However,  the sine qua non is that fathers become the sexual tutors of their sons, because, given the nature of males, men have much greater and difficult task to achiever bringing  their sexual impulses under total control.

The program is simple: Every father worthy of the title, wants his son to end up happily married to the girl of his dreams and wants to show him the way to pull that off.  This is what fathers do: make men out of their boys.

Now that presents a difficulty because most fathers, today, have not achieved that status or have lost it: they are single or married to some other woman.  Thus, they are quite handicapped in giving what they do not have.  However, let us leave that major difficulty to the side for the time being and focus instead on what has to be achieved: Lifelong marriage of a boy to the girl of his dreams.

As a nation— as a culture— we either go for this or we break apart into factions, because sex — at every level of social organization, from the couple to the polis— either powerfully binds us together or powerfully splits us apart. Those who do not go for the gold of lifelong marriage,  ultimately, are prepared that our nation be split into pieces.  Too strong a claim?  What happens to families after divorce?  Multiply that by millions and then by two or three generations and then you have a nation and culture falling apart.  The choice is not just and individual choice it is a political one (in the pure sense of the polis). 

How men handle their sexuality is at the bedrock level of society.  This is something the Marxist Feminists understood very well, though for nefarious applications.  

Feminists and lots of other women are clear on what they don’t want men to do sexually, and they are right!  But they are NOT clear on what they want men to DO. And without a clear destination anyone is lost. So, feminists, though correct in their attacks on predation, are totally wrong on the nature of sex. There is only one destination that makes sense of sex: Sex is meant for marriage and procreation— procreation within marriage— both entwined.  There are lots of secondary derivative purposes and benefits but these two, procreation within marriage,  are non-negotiables if we are to avoid social chaos, and if justice is to be done to every child, and if we are to be a people who want justice for every child.

Maybe the biggest natural barrier to achieving this justice is a universal fact about being male: for every man a huge portion of females are physically attractive to him— and will remain so throughout his life, no matter his marital status. Men see, and immediately register, the beauty and attractiveness of every female before they know anything else about her. And if a man permits himself to pursue that attraction to its logical end (intercourse) he can be in big trouble for the rest of his life, and worse still, he will have caused chaos in the lives of the woman, her extended family, his own extended family, and in particular, and most disastrously, will have severely damaged the children that result from that intercourse (either eliminating them in abortion or leaving them with split parents for the rest of their lives – and  the grandchildren’s  lives.

The only way that sexual attraction can be properly handled is by channeling it towards one person only — the future bride.  Finding her is a long and delicate process for which a good father is the best guide, by far.

The journey to the bride starts in childhood.  It used to start in adolescence for most of human history but now, with pornography being universally and aggressively obtrusive, it starts for boys around age seven or eight, because with his first exposure to it he is beginning to go down the right path or the wrong path.

(By the way – I am all for the death penalty for pornographers. The human suffering unleashed by pornography is so large it is beyond comprehension.)

Back to the task:  fathers now have to begin tutoring early if they are not to be too late.  By age 7 or 8 it is already urgent and assumes a good level of affection between father and son for this next phase to be successful.

The good father lets his boy know (despite his son not yet being interested in girls) that he wants him to end up as a great young man with a beautiful young wife who will be his companion and best friend for life.  Even the father who has failed to achieve this for himself can lay this out for his son. 

Gradually – and differently for each son – he leads him to understand the fundamental complementarity between male and female; that this complementarity between his mother and father brought him into existence and an even greater complementarity and unity between them is needed to raise him to be a great young man.  The father reminds his son that he exists because he, his father, used his sexuality to bring him into existence!  (This is a most powerful lesson each modern boy needs to hear from the lips of his father.  Without this exchange a father is neglecting the growth of his son).  He lets his son know that his father, and he alone, is the one to guide his son in teaching about sexuality and that his son should take it from no one else unless his father says it is OK.  He even goes so far as to teach his son how to demand this as his (the son’s) right in the classroom and any other place.  He teaches his boy how to be a modern warrior — and gentleman — in these sexually hostile times.

The father paints, repeatedly, the goal of the great woman to be won over – by his son being a great man. He teaches him that in this domain “like attracts like!”  He cannot have a great woman without being a great man. It is impossible.  (At the same time the boy’s mother is teaching the same lesson to his sister).

 The father teaches his son that along the way there are many traps and snares for every man; that there always has been and always will be.  The first snare that modern boys confront is pornography — new, modern and powerful  in its intrusiveness and alluringness (that is what makes it a snare).  The father tells his son (at the appropriate time) how he combats his own temptations to look at pornography.  He does it in a way that invites the son to lean on his father for help whenever that struggle is present – and it will be.  The father promises to protect him within the home and at school but tells him he has to learn how to protect himself when his father is not around.  And he reminds him constantly that all this is for the sake of that wonderful girl he is going to win some day.  The purer his heart the stronger it will be and the more easily she will sense it and be attracted by it. And he in turn will be able to recognize a woman with a similarly pure heart – ready to give it to the right man but only to the right man and only to one man!

Anybody with an ounce of sense will agree with the above. Anyone who  does not is an enemy of children.  Harsh? Yes — but true and fundamental to a just and peaceful society.

In all my years working with couples and families, with data and research,  with evaluating programs and trying to figure out how best to help couples and families, I have concluded that nothing is more fundamental in the cycle of life and of  nations than that the father be the one to induct a boy into sexuality.  No one else.  All else is fraud — dressed up no doubt, but fraud.

Given this, I think it is time for another Revolutionary War.  This war is not fought with guns (though, if it is not won there will be a war with guns).  It is the revolution by which fathers take back from everyone else, no matter who they are (teachers or clergy),  the sexual education and formation of their boys.  

We all love appropriate battle cries, such as New Hampshire’s “Liver Free or Die”.  The one every father needs close to his heart (and on his lips when need be) is “Keep your hands off my son’s sex!”

 If we get enough fathers taking “sex ed” (it really is sexual malformation)  back out of the schools (public and private, denominational or secular) we can change America. If we don’t we lose it.  

Too simple? No, no matter the difficulty of doing it.   I see nothing more foundational than this in the cycle of human existence, handed on from one generation to the next.

(By the way, this is the ultimate reform the Catholic Church needs to rectify its own house on sexual ethics for all vocations—for marriage, priesthood, religious celibacy or single lay life.  It was the “program” proposed in plenty of time by Pope Pius XII back in the 1950’s.  It is a pity of historical proportions that Catholic bishops and religious teaching orders did not take that to heart.)

May fathers take back the formation of their sons’ sexuality from everyone else!  It belongs to no one else.  If anyone wants to do any “sex ed” let them help fathers and mothers do it  — and most of them will need help to do this well.  But any other forms of sex ed is only adding to the problem.  Proof? Just look around you. 

It is already very late.  It is time to start this New Revolution. 

Black Americans Losing Their Freedom

Tags: , , , , black family, child well-being, family structure, intact family, MARRI, marriage, Uncategorized No comments

Most Black Americans are less free than their ancestors under Jim Crow laws.  They no longer can marry and stay married.

Most Black Americans today grow up in broken families and suffer their parents rejecting each other.  (Other ethnic children do also, but less so.)

Compare the Black Family to the Asian American family over the past decades:

[To explore this further go to The Decomposition of the American Family Over Time by Henry Potrykus, formerly with MARRI. If you go there: Click on the words in gold to get what you want to see.]

Parents pass on a lot to their children, one of the strongest being social capacity. This learned complementarity between husband and wife is the great strength that keeps on giving… across generations. The rejection between husband and wife also keeps on giving — more brokenness across generations. The more splitting in a family’s history, the more the children will split. 

Where did this loss of freedom come from? Was this something imposed on Black Americans? Imposed on their church-going families? Where did this rejection virus come from? How is it so endemic even among church-goers?

And keep in mind, this is one Black parent rejecting the other. It is not imposed from outside. 

If Black leaders can build unity in the Black family, they can solve, not only their own problems but also white, Hispanic and Native American too.  Such leaders will become national heroes. 

How is this done? We can put men and women on the moon. But we do not know how build marriage for a lifetime. How do Asian Americans do it?  Can they transfer it? 

The five richest men in America, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg all have intact marriages. If their combined funds could find the solution — nothing  would yield greater dividends to the nation nor restore to Black Americans the freedom most of them have lost.

Family Disruption and Child Wellbeing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Demographics of How “Godly” Are Our Religious Beliefs?

Tags: , , , child well-being, culture, family, MARRI, marriage, Pat Fagan, Pew Research, religion, Uncategorized No comments

Pew’s new report is a landmark study in the sociology of religion, which “—sorts Americans into seven groups based on the religious and spiritual beliefs they share, how actively they practice their faith, the value they place on their religion, and the other sources of meaning and fulfillment in their lives.” [1]

What are the seven types or groups? And how many are in each group?

If you want to know where you land within the seven types, go here.  For a quick overview of the difference between the types on major outcomes go here.  Here is one comparison (frequency of worship:

Keep the following relationship in mind (from MARRI’s own Mapping America) as you study the Pew report on matters family and marriage:

The chart above gives some idea of the link between frequency of religious practice and the importance given to marriage.  I note this as a reference point to keep in mind as you study the details below.

What is the relationship between Pew’s seven types and the typical identification by denomination?

As I am Roman Catholic, naturally, I paid attention to how represented Roman Catholics are “Sunday Stalwarts” (13%).  [By the way it is very easy to misread this chart: it is not the percent of Roman Catholics who are Sunday Stalwarts but the percent of Sunday Stalwarts who are Roman Catholic).  But still, for Catholics it is a poor showing indeed, for a religion which puts so much emphasis on the Mass (as the act of Redemption, and the obligation of weekly worship of God by this means).  Compared to Evangelicals they are weak in worship, even if, by the nature of being an Evangelical, one self-selects into a devout group, whereas being Catholic has (in ordinary life) as much to so with what one was born into as it has to what you intend do about it.  The biggest showing for “Catholics” is among the Diversely Devout — a strange title for you if you are “Catholic” because devout usually means a high level of faithfulness but not in this case! However, for the Pew typology the Diversely part fits it fits by Catholic norms even as the Devout part fits by Pew Typology norms.  But Pew acknowledges the shortcomings of its “clustering” techniques.  Even given my concerns the data is very helpful. 

What is the relationship between the seven types and family behaviors?

As expected: There is a decrease in impact with a decrease in worship:

What is the relationship between marriage and the seven types?

Given that the next chart does not control for age it is not all that helpful.  The biggest issue in “marriage” is the intactness of the biological parents’ marriage between their mid-30’s and their early 50’s, that phase of family life when their marriage has the greatest influence on their children’s future. From the Pew data below,  we cannot tell. 

It would be nice to figure out where the 7 types tend to fall in the different strata of family structures below. (From the MARRI collection of 5 thousand charts on family structure from the 1940’s to the present).

The most disturbing finding:

For the future of our nation, the most disturbing finding for me is the following:

From this we see a disturbing polarization outside of the Sunday Stalwarts (who have some balance on the issue).  I would be among those who would say (with a major caveat) that it is not necessary to believe in God to have good values and to be moral. I have met many such people.  My caveat: it is much easier to be moral and have good values if one practices believes in God enough to worship him in community.   I don’t trust the ‘God and Country’ type nor the ‘Diversely Devout’ to build the bridges necessary for a functioning polis or political community, which at bottom is a discourse on political morality.  And clearly the remaining groups in the Typology see no contribution from religion to morality.  Now that is dangerous! The more the Sunday Stalwarts shrink as a percent of the nation, the more polarized and the fewer bridge builders we will have, leaving more and more of the country polarized.  Reason and philosophy will have no place in matters moral!

For the “wonks”: Notes on Motivation and Method from the Pew Report

“Pew Research Center’s religious typology is not meant to replace conventional religious affiliations, but rather to offer a new and complementary lens with which to glean new insights into religion and public life in the U.S.” [2]

“The typology groups were created using cluster analysis, a statistical technique that identified homogeneous groups of respondents based on their answers to 16 questions about their religious and spiritual beliefs and practices, the value they place on their religion, and the other sources of meaning and fulfillment in their lives.” [3]

“In some ways, cluster analysis is as much art as science. The groups that emerge will depend on both the number of groups that researchers specify and the questions that they choose to include in the analysis. What’s more, there is no “correct” cluster solution or any single criteria for deciding which solution is best. Researchers must weigh a number of factors: whether it’s clear why people are grouped together, whether the groups are different enough from each other to be analytically useful, and whether the groups are consistent with what researchers already know about the subject.” [4]

“In preparing this report, researchers tested several possible solutions – ranging from five to eight groups – and experimented with including larger and smaller numbers of questions.” [5]

“Researchers ultimately settled on the 16-question, seven-category cluster solution summarized in this report because it has several strengths. First, the solution divides respondents into a relatively small number of groups that are distinct from one another, large enough to permit statistical analysis, and substantively meaningful. Second, all the survey questions that went into the algorithm are measures of religious or spiritual characteristics, making this truly a religious typology.” [6] [1-6] From the Report.

Three Short Periods That Shape an Individual’s Journey Through Life

adolescent sexuality, child well-being, culture, economics, family, family structure, love, MARRI, marriage, mothers, parenthood, religion, sexuality, society, young adults, youth No comments

Three phases are foundational to a sense of well-being throughout life: The child’s early experience of his mother, the teenager’s decision about sex and God, and the newly wedded couples agreement on suffering. The first and last involve the two most important persons in his life. The middle- the teenager’s decision -is personal, private and alone, or alone before God. All three phases shape life way into the future by shaping the individual’s capacity for the wellbeing of spouse, children, friends, family, and colleagues at work.

The child who experiences the constant attention and affection of a self-giving mother during the earliest phase of life, is blessed beyond measure. That mother is giving him a great introduction to “reality as a pleasant place to be.” Life is good, life is warm, life is full. Well taken care of, that baby is ready to take life on! Depending on the mother’s capacity, both from within herself and from the environment around her (her own early experience of her own mother, her husband, her home, her support from family and friends), she fills her child’s emotional heart- his relational “cup”- full, half-full or quarter full. Less than full means the child will have a corresponding limp in human relationships for the rest of its life– without realizing it.

In a recent conversation with friends who live in Spain we mulled the mother-child dilemma in that country where almost all married women are expected to return to work four months after the birth of the child. Many fear that moment because of the pain of leaving their child so soon. By any research calculus, four months with mother is way too little as a norm. Spain is undermining the relational capacity of its children and guaranteeing fragile marriages and difficult parenting twenty-five to thirty years from now.

It cannot but be that most Spanish children will limp relationally to some extent, but it will be hard to spot because most other Spaniards will have been similarly affected. For almost all Spanish couples — even the middle class and higher — a culture of shame exists for husbands if their wives do not work. (The poor and the working class can’t afford the luxury of such shame.) Caring full-time for children at home has become rather socially unacceptable. In Spain, the marketplace is more honored than the child. The market now significantly shapes Spanish children’s relational capacities.

The next period to shape life takes place in the inner sanctum of each teenager’s heart. Between the age of fourteen to sixteen most teenagers decide very privately which path they will walk on matters sexual – ‘adventurous’ exploration of sexual relationships, or chaste abstinence until marriage. The other decision, rather interlaced with the first, is whether they will walk with God or without Him. Should they take the both paths the wrong way, they set themselves up for much unhappiness, broken relationships, even broken marriages, thus visiting suffering on their future children and grandchildren. Some learn their mistake before they go too far down the road. Others find chaste abstinence is possible, especially with friends who walk the same path and who go to God frequently in worship. Oh this “it takes a village” helps a lot. Though chastity leads to significant prosperity and happiness in marriage and family for decades to come, most teenagers are not aware of this, nor that, though they are free to choose, they are not free to choose the consequences, that the consequences are hardwired within them.

The third period bridges the year before and after marriage. The most basic wisdom young couples need concerns suffering. Their orientation to it shapes their future. Those who expect life together to involve some suffering and are prepared to back each other up (“for better or for worse”) will survive and thrive. Those who premise marriage only on “happy ever after” (our modernist norm) are in for a quick disillusionment, one that ends many marriages. The best definition I have come across of a great marriage is “a couple with the capacity to solve an emotionally dividing problem”. Stated differently: a couple who can confront the suffering that life throws at them and figure out how to move towards a solution they agree on.

Though all the social science dots are not yet fully connected across the three periods, enough of them are to link the first period to this last. A husband and wife whose mothers “filled their cup” in infancy are much better formed to be great problem solvers together.

Which brings me back to poor Spain! It takes the national wisdom of a child-friendly culture to deal well with family, love, suffering and children. St John of the Cross, who helped reform religious and institutional life in Spain in the late 1500’s and whose writings are explored by believers of all faiths, is one of the great teachers of the connection between love and suffering. Spanish life could do with a re-infusion of his insights. Then the rest of the world would learn from Spain, for many Western nations, and many good couples, struggle, during the first phase of the child’s existence, to solve the dilemma of mother, child and marketplace.