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Jessica Olien

Jessica Olien

Self and the Single Parent: On Jessica Olien, Part II

child well-being, culture, family, Jessica Olien, marriage, religion, single parents No comments
By Julia Polese, Intern
 
The notion of singleness has been a hot topic lately. Articles discussing single motherhood, living alone, and remaining unmarried by choice reflect trending individualism in American culture. Jessica Olien’s article “I Want to Be My Kid’s Only Parent” sums up the surging solipsism well: “I can’t help but think that having a partner there with an equal stake in the matter would complicate the process.” Her dispassionate ode to single parenthood echoes Kate Bolick’s sentiments in “All the Single Ladies” from The Atlanticearlier this year, in which she discussed “the elevation of independence over coupling.” The individualism Alexis de Tocqueville prophesied as one of the most undesirable discontents of democracy in America is becoming manifest in not only in our local communities, but also in our families.
 
Andrew Delbanco, professor of American Studies at Columbia University, gave a series of lectures in 1998 entitled The Real American Dream: A Meditation on Hope. In these lectures, he discussed the American people’s diminution of hope: from worship of their God, to loyalty to a notion of the sacred nation-state, and, in the last fifty years, “to the vanishing point of self alone.” Despite this shrinking world, Delbanco claims contemporary culture is still haunted by an “unslacked craving for transcendence.” Even in the glorification of singleness and the “self alone,” the authors of these articles still betray a longing for devotion to something outside themselves. Olien ends her article by exalting her hypothetical progeny, saying she “could have men on the periphery, but [she] would place [her] child securely in the center.” Bolick extols the virtue of the community at Begijnhof, an apartment complex only for single women in the Netherlands. Both are enamored with their self-sufficiency, but betray a desire to devote themselves to something other.
 
MARRI’s 162 Reasons to Marry outlines some of the ways marriage can aid in answering this longing. Married women experience less psychological stress and enjoy more social support than their single or cohabiting peers, and their children report higher quality of life. These aspects of the intact married family present a way to ease the democratic citizen’s restlessness, connecting her to something transcendent and larger than herself when rightly ordered in relation to God and country. With this in mind, the home again becomes a “haven in a heartless world” and not a prison that only works to constrain one’s self-defined existence.

The Benefits of Two-Parent Families

divorce, family, Jessica Olien, MARRI, marriage, poverty, single parents, United Kingdom No comments
By MARRI Interns
In a recent Slate.com article, “I Want To Be My Kid’s Only Parent,” Jessica Olien presents the case that single motherhood allows her to raise her child without interference from a spouse. “I crave the closeness of single motherhood—without the complications a husband can bring,” she says. While there is no problem craving closeness with one’s child, the desire to be a single parent means missing out on the vast benefits for children raised in married, two-parent homes. The Marriage and Religion Research Institute’s publication Mapping America has documented research from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1997) on the ways that family structure affects children. Research has shown that children raised with two biological parent homes are more emotionally stable, and are also significantly less likely to run away, experience poverty, and other emotional stresses. Children raised in two parent biological parent homes are more likely and more able to enjoy the benefits of the physical presence of two loving parents.
 
Studies done in the United Kingdom have shown that children raised in lone parent homes, whether divorced or separated, are more likely than children raised in married families to experience emotional disorders, 7.6% of children as opposed to 3.5% (from MARRI’s research synthesis paper “Effects of Divorce”).
 
Single-parenthood also brings with it economic consequences for the child. Children who live in single-parent homes often live in poverty.  A 2000 study of children in poverty done in found that 67% of children in never-married-parent homes lived in poverty, 41% of those living with a separated parent, and 31% of those living with a divorced parent also live in poverty as opposed to only 12% of children who live in first marriage parents (MARRI website). According to a MARRI presentation, “Children’s right to the marriage of parents,” there are over 3.93 million children living in poverty. If those same parents were married, there would only be 0.75 million children living in poverty, with 3.17 million leaving poverty. Clearly, this is not only a huge strangle on the economy, but it is also leaving children unable to enjoy the benefits of living in a loving a ndcomfortable environment.