Americans have been involved in a raging debate for the past six decades surrounding the benefits and the pitfalls of the “nuclear” family versus the single-parent unit.
Collectively, we’ve put an incredible amount of passion behind how divorce, remarriage, and single-parenting have impacted the children involved in these sometimes devastating situations.
“Eighty-four percent of convicted felons in all U.S. prisons are the products of single-parent homes.“
If ever there was an endorsement of the traditional “nuclear” family, this is it.
The above statement by the Department of Statistical Research for Temple University in 2003 is a staggering example of the invisible dangers associated with non-traditional family structure.
And while the above statement is a fact, there are those who insist that the traditional family element (one father, one mother, and their child/children) is fundamentally flawed or even DANGEROUS for society at large. They inanely argue that the reasons we, as a society, have veered away from the “nuclear” family is evidence of this conjecture.
Shere Hite, an American-born German sex educator and feminist said:
“One constantly hears that the family is in trouble, that it doesn’t work anymore, that we must find ways to help it…People have reasons for fleeing the nuclear family: human rights abuses and the battering of women are well documented in many governments’ statistics.”
While it is true that there is factual data to back up information of abuse in two-parent homes, where are the statistics that demonstrate the overwhelming and FAR GREATER NUMBER of domestic abuse cases in single-parent homes?
We are not merely talking about a boyfriend of the single mother who batters her or molests her unattended children while she is at work, but what of the single father’s girlfriend who beats the children or introduces them to illicit drugs?
We can point to the hundreds of incidents where the traditional family has had its fractures (and those should be attended to) but to ignore the hundreds of thousands of men and women incarcerated in our nation’s prisons (who can point directly to their single-parent roots as a part-and-parcel contribution to their maladjusted moral compass) is a gross disservice to the overall argument.
There is also the point made by those in favor of the single-parent unit that the entire institution of the traditional family was originally founded by man’s inherent quest for dominance over woman. Shere Hite goes on:
“The modern patriarchal family was created so that each man would ‘own’ a woman who would reproduce for him.”
Amazingly, there is never any mention of how the presence of a father in a traditional family setting can positively affect a child’s life. Cynthia Harper of the University of Pennsylvania and Sara S. McLanahan of Princeton University wrote:
“Young men who grow up in homes without fathers are TWICE as likely to end up in jail as those who come from traditional two-parent families.”
Also keep in mind that this information was taken from a sample of 6,000 males aged 14-22 from 1979-1993. Additionally, despite other factors such as race, income, parent education, religious affiliation, and urban residence being introduced into the sampling, the statistics REMAINED THE SAME that those boys whose fathers were absent from the household were more than double the likelihood of being imprisoned.
This, in and of itself, should be more than enough evidence that the single-parent home is structurally inferior to the traditional family model.
I am the product of a single-parent home. I am well-adjusted and fairly intelligent and I know where my life is headed. I have goals and aspirations and I know that I am capable of doing almost anything in life.
I am also the proud father of five beautiful children and husband to a wonderful and amazing mother of my children. In my life, I’ve never heard anyone say, “I can’t wait to raise my kids in a single-parent home!”
My kids benefit from the combined wisdom of two parents (both the male AND the female points of view). In no way, shape or form do I believe for a moment that it is “better to remain in a bad marriage for the sake of the kids”, but we are not talking about disagreements here.
It is foolish to believe that, just because two people are married, that they should suddenly begin agreeing on every point. Every couple fights, disagrees or argues. However, when physical and mental abuses take over the relationship (and counseling is no longer an option) then it would be plain stupid to remain in that situation.
These days, with divorce so prevalent in society, it has become a fairly simple way of dealing with disagreements in a marriage. Go to the lawyer, file the papers, pay the fees, and voila! You are freed from your marital responsibilities and can now go back to being carefree and happy.
Divorce may remove people from volatile scenarios, but its drawbacks (ones which Cosmopolitan won’t discuss in its pages) are as unpleasant for the children as they are for the parents. This process can impact a child for decades to come and will even affect their choice of friends and lovers.
The leftover product of divorce also pushes children into situations of cohabitation.
According to Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, an advocate for the traditional family structure:
“Nearly half of all cohabitating couples have children in the household. Fifteen percent have new children together. Many cohabitating couples eventually get married. However, both cohabitating and remarried couples are more likely to break up than couples in first marriages.”
Why would cohabitation or a remarriage be different than a first marriage?
For the remarried couples, it is purely a matter of semantics. If a person has experienced divorce before, it is familiar and less frightening territory for them. They know what to expect and are aware of the consequences, good and bad. Therefore, they are more willing to re-take that chance, if the outcome will be something that’s acceptable.
For the cohabitating couples, it is a matter of disengagement.
A person who lives with another is not bound by symbols that represent the bonds of marriage. Both the marriage certificate and the ring embody those symbols. Although they are just material things, they are nevertheless compelling devices that represent concepts such as commitment, fidelity and promise.
The age of technology, too, has ushered in a new way of thinking that has put the traditional family in jeopardy. So much has been invested in quicker ways to communicate that it is simpler to “connect” with others, relationship-wise, with the click of a mouse.
With the advent of email, online dating services, Facebook, YouTube, webcams, Skype, etc., it is vastly more convenient to “discover compatibility” out there in the cyber world than it was even twenty years ago. Ironically, this accessibility to lightning information has spawned a sense of “disconnect” among those who could actually be genuinely served in a monogamous relationship.
Watching young and old alike glued to the screens of their smart phones and iPads and tapping away furiously at the keys while ignoring nearly everything going on around them in the real world is saddening.
I’m reminded of the scene in the children’s film “Wall-E” where a bunch of permanently seated, obese, people on a distant orbiting spaceship have no other human interaction except through a translucent viewer screen in front of their face. They COULD see the rest of the people and the world around, if only they could look through or away from the screen.
With this increased technology comes the inevitable dependence on all things celebrity. America has become the “celebrity capital of the world” and this type of idolatry has created an industry of egomaniacs who live and die by their own press.
Even everyday people post their entire lives (every waking moment) on social media, to the point where they have absolutely nothing personal that isn’t shared with the rest of the world.
Barbara Dafoe Whitehead noticed this as well:
“Consider, for example, the teaser for People magazine’s cover story on Joan Lunden’s divorce: ‘After the painful end of her 13-year marriage, the Good Morning America cohost is discovering a new life as a single mother – and as her own woman.’
People does not dwell on the anguish Lunden and her children might have experienced over the breakup of their family, or on the difficulties of single motherhood, even for celebrity mothers. Instead, it celebrates Joan Lunden’s steps toward independence [by] focus[ing] on her shopping.”
Over the past thirty years, Hollywood has been increasingly more critical of the traditional family by accentuating the negatives and omitting the positives. Instead, they have been applauding the state of divorce and non-marital childbirth.
As you may have noted in recent times, many celebrities have “shacked up” together, rather than have gotten married, and have had children. Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell were the Gold Standard until their eventual split.
You may also recall the story in recent years of the 16 teenage girls in a Boston high school who entered into a secret pact with each other to become pregnant by random men.
Then there was the very strange case of the Octomom giving birth to eight children after multiple implantations were performed. The mom ended up bringing home eight infant children to a household that already had six other children…all without a father. She has been supplementing her generous welfare payments for all these children with income from her pornography.
Throughout all this, the traditional family continues to thrive, despite attacks on its virtues.
In fact, I believe that we are on the cusp of the re-emergence of the “nuclear” family as the only smart path. A negative backlash has been building for decades and those involved in tearing down the foundations of what was once a great institution, are going to be quite disappointed with the rise of the traditional family once again.
This tenuous line that dangles loose values and questionable ethics is about to sever. With the next decade, a return to the solid and stable two-parent system will be enacted, not only by those who agree, but by those who are “unintending”.
Those who disagree will continue to try to support their unsuccessful bid for popular acceptance, due in large part to the undisclosed problems that walk hand-in-hand with single-parent households.
There is no term for familial love, compassion and wisdom other than simply “family values.” And “family values” are depicted perfectly when we can combine one father, one mother, and their child/children.
If the mother is the seed, and the father is the sun, and the children are the saplings…then one without the other creates only a barren landscape of loneliness and despair.