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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.

The Power of Stories for MARRI

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Social Science data does not produce a warm and fuzzy feeling. It is quite cerebral. At times this causes me some significant professional problems. Now is one of those times.

We at MARRI have a number of donors looking at our work. They like it, but they are not sure of its impact. So, I am coming to you to ask for a favor: Not a donation of money, but something likely much more valuable to me right now: A story.

I ask you for a story (or two) about MARRI data: How it affects you, how you have used it.  Have you had others take a look at it? Use your own experience in simple terms.  It can be as long or short as you wish.

You have no idea how important your story might be for us. Please help by sending your story to:

marri.research@gmail.com

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

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.

God, Fertility, and Hope for the Future.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.

Director of the MARRI Project

Catholic University of America