The banter and jostling of a happy family around the dinner table does more than create well-adjusted people, it can lift a slumping nation. The power of traditional, intact families to strengthen the country is often overlooked.
Stable homes with traditional marriages of father, mother and children are powerful tonics for what ails any culture. When the family worships together often, the tonic improves. Dr. Patrick Fagan of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute has the data to prove it. He is an internationally acclaimed expert on this topic and shared his hefty research at the Stand for the Family Conference in Provo Sept. 19. (Find his data at www.marri.us; go to the power point tab.) Dr Fagan digests social science research on the family and marriage and he is emphatic about the weighty contributions traditional nuclear families make to society.
Unfortunately, these intact families are on the wane. Only 46% of today’s teens live in intact homes where both father and mother reside in the home and are married to each other, and the nation is suffering, as a result. In these homes, parents teach healthy male and female roles. Children learn their own and opposite roles from both parents—girls learn how women behave from their mothers and boys learn how to treat females with respect; boys learn male patterns from their fathers and girls learn how the males in their lives should treat them. The research consistently shows that children in any other family structure—divorce, step-parent or single parent homes, cohabitating homes where adults live together without marriage, or same-sex homes—are less likely to adjust to society’s healthy expectations. A culture of alienation and anger more frequently emerges from broken homes. Robust families—“the larger the better”, says Fagan—are the mainstay of a strong society.
Dr. Fagan reviews the history of militant feminists and homosexuals who decades ago declared their goal to transform America by deconstructing the traditional family. According to Education Portal online university, radical feminists suggest eliminating gender completely and rejecting the nuclear family structure altogether. The efforts of these and other dissidents, amassed over time, have upended society. Dr. Fagan’s statistics show that we have too often bought into this hype against the family.
The list of advantages families bring to society is long and eye-opening. As a sampling, children in an intact family typically have higher GPA scores. They get in less trouble with the police, run away less often and are jailed less often. Coming from a broken home, a youth is 2.5 times more likely to have multiple sex partners and “do drugs”, and is twice as likely to have mental health problems or be expelled from school. The heart-wrenching term “throwaway children” stems from broken homes. Violence is dramatically lower in intact families; for instance, physical abuse of children in cohabitating relationships is 10 times higher and sexual abuse is 20 times higher.
Traditional marriage improves the economy and helps eliminate poverty. The productivity of married men is higher than unmarried men, whether single or divorced: for every dollar a single man earns, a married father earns $1.27. With a family to support, he works more productively. Dr. Fagan reports that divorce has slowed the economy every year for the last 20 years. US poverty rates among children living with single mothers are five times higher than those of children living with married parents says the Family Research Council, and children from intact families are likely to have higher-paying jobs as adults. The facts say that when the family dissolves, the economy suffers.
Religious worship matters, as well, and the more the family worships together the better the children fare on a wide range of social measurements. Statistics on the MARRI website are compiled by frequency of worship—from never to weekly. It’s obvious that children thrive with religious worship and the family that worships together much more often stays together.
Children have five tasks they must master as they mature if they are to flourish. All are best learned in intact families, and a responsible society offers an environment that encourages these tasks. A child must learn about the family—the next generation. He must learn religion—the existence of a moral universe, and the learning process that is fostered in school. He must learn that benevolent government will protect him and that the marketplace will protect property and provide an opportunity to earn an income.
Simple math shows that we could dramatically reduce the trauma to children and the financial drain for social services by returning religious worship to the culture, putting two opposite gender parents back into the home, and supporting the traditional nuclear family.
The core weakness in society is broken families that do not worship together. Dr. Fagan adds that any government that doesn’t protect that base in society “is intent on suicide.” There are exceptions, of course—traditional families flounder and divided homes can and do produce healthy children, but it’s smart to draft laws and policies based on the norm, not the exceptions. Traditional families are more likely to generate healthy youth. We can teach young people the importance of family, children, and religious worship, and we must direct our public policies toward their protection and support.