What does it tell us about America’s future when the just-released CDC report reveals that for the eighth straight year, more than 40 percent of births occurring in the U.S. have been to unmarried women — that’s more than 1.6 million annually. To put that into perspective, unwed births jumped from 3.8 percent in 1940 to 10 percent in 1969; then they doubled to 20.3 percent by 1983 and grew to 30.1 percent by 1992. Since 2008, the percentage has ranged from a low of 40.2 percent to a high of 40.8 percent in 2010. Since then, it has gradually and marginally declined but has remained above 40 percent (40.2 percent in both 2014 and 2015).
Despite the stresses that go with growing up in poverty and the fact that those children living in a home with only one parent are three to five times as likely to live in poverty as those living with both parents, there are still many people who are blasé about these percentages — claiming that family structure is irrelevant as long as the child is surrounded by “love.” Scholars and social scientists who do not have an ideological axe to grind understand that these numbers are tragic for the future of the vast majority of those children, their mothers, and the nation. Evidence continues to accumulate at a shocking rate that a married mom-and-dad family is not just better for raising children, but the absolute best family structure for nurturing children to be well-adjusted, productive adults, for women’s well-being and equality, and for producing a citizenry, society and culture that is the necessary foundation for a successful nation.
There is no question but that many children raised by a single mother will turn out fine, but the risks are very clear and the connection between single parenting and poor outcomes is equally clear in a huge and growing number of studies showing the strong connections between father-absent families and poverty, juvenile delinquency, poor school performance, and numerous other outcomes that damage children’s futures. It is equally clear in the research that the whole of society is staggering under both the financial dependency and the society disintegration that is inherent while these trends prevail. (See here, here, here, here and here.)
Words I wrote my 2010 book, Children at Risk, are even more relevant today than they were just 6 years ago.
Since I arrived in Washington, DC nearly two decades ago, my work has centered on analyzing the social science data related to the functioning and well-being of families and children. While working at the U.S. Department of health and Human Services, then at the White House, and later heading a non-profit think tank, I studied the trends and correlations of a wide array of data series to understand the factors and policies that impact children’s well-being. The results of years of analyzing the data have convinced me, beyond all doubt, that the rejection of traditional Judeo-Christian values and morality is at the root of most of the broken relationships that children encounter in American culture. Growing up in material prosperity can never compensate for those conditions of moral poverty that inevitably produce isolation, despair, and emotional pain.
If we are to change the trajectory of children’s living conditions, we must abandon the experimentation with value-free nostrums pushed by those whose avant-garde ideas and policies have been so detrimental to the nation’s children. When it comes to children, it is really all about the basics of a mother and father within a committed marriage, who establish a family and give their children unconditional love and a solid foundation of nurturing, training, and discipline that will enable them to reach their fullest potential. Such parents are jointly committed to the well-being of their children — to meeting their basic needs for emotional connectedness and sound moral and spiritual development.
Indeed, over the past four decades, ideologues promoting liberal ideas and values have often prevailed in the competition with those who adhere to traditional values and ideas. The disastrous consequences of policies based on liberal ideology rather than Judeo-Christian values are apparent everywhere, from the local school to the movie screens, from the marketplace to the welfare system.
To anyone willing to look objectively at the facts, it is becoming increasingly apparent that neither state nor federal programs can ever be enough to compensate for the costs of moral relativism and the breakdown of the family. The decline of marriage and the traditional mom-and-dad family are a tragic loss to both children and women. This fact has been sugar-coated and glossed over to accommodate the radical utopian ideological of the Left which is hostile to all aspects of the moral authority of religion with its constraining boundaries. It is obvious to those who study social trends that no-fault-divorce, the legalization of abortion, runaway entitlements, disastrous declines in the percentage of men who are working and increases in dysfunctional lifestyles (promiscuous sex, alcohol and drug abuse, gambling, etc.) are increasing right along with the breakdown of marriage and family.
The bottom line is simply stated in Children at Risk:
Moral boundaries, not moral relativism, provide a safe haven for children by preserving their innocence and protecting them from predators and pedophiles. Without moral absolutes, children are at risk. When parents and society throw authentic religious faith overboard, children are no longer safe. When there are no underlying moral principles providing a foundation for society, when there are not institutional values unifying the populace, even the best programs and most honorable of intentions are doomed to failure. It is not enough to be well intentioned if, at the same time, you are unrealistic — “bleeding heart,” if you will. Our society has suffered grievously from programs and policies that meant well but failed miserably — and on a colossal scale — as is documented by an abundance of data and the obvious social trends in America.
We, as a nation, cannot continue to ignore the social science research — research that is increasingly the same coming from progressive as well as conservative scholars. Instead, we have to accept that data clarity is not enough; we must have social and cultural change. The nation’s scholars and demographers have documented the problems; we have more than enough data and it is time to throw off the shackles of political correctness and say what needs to be said. Doing that will require not only insight, perception and wisdom, but courage to confront the lions of the progressive elites with their pedigrees and diplomas, and blindness to reality.
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