It’s a week shy of Thanksgiving, the day every year on which we express gratitude for all that we have and all the gifts we have received during our lives.
In reflecting on the earthly things for which I am thankful, the family is at the top of the list. From our great-grandparents down to our grandchildren, each one has played an important part in who my wife and I are individually and also as a married couple.
We were blessed to have our own cohesive families and we tried to create the same in our home for our children. Without a doubt, the family is the critical element to nurturing children who will build and sustain a cohesive, productive society.
In 1992, Dr. Gary S. Becker received the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. Part of his research dealt with Human Capital and Economic Growth. In essence, the family and formal education were the two key foundations of Human Capital Formation and fed the economic growth of a family (and by extension — the greater society).
This might seem self-evident, but Dr. Becker received a great deal of criticism as he advocated specialization (roles) for spouses — radical thoughts like fathers should be fathers, mothers should be mothers, etc. While he was criticized by a number of “progressive” groups, his research identified specific social benefits of the traditional family arrangement — less physical and mental health issues, less crime and less sexual activity and enhanced earnings with greater education and more stable marriages.
The fracturing of the family — intentional or unintentional — is likely a significant issue contributing to the chaotic economic and political situation we are all trying to understand and work through. Our economic disparity isn’t all the result of greed; it’s partially a result of the breakdown in the family structure.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University conducted a number of studies a few years ago on the importance of the family dinner to the child’s self-esteem. The studies compared teens who ate dinner with the family at least five nights per week compared to those who did so only two nights per week.
They produced some very interesting findings. The teens who ate with the family five or more nights were nearly one and a half times more likely to say their parents were proud of them. They were 40 percent more likely to confide in their parents with a serious problem. And the parents were half as likely to say they did not know their children’s friends very well.
In the realm of education, teens who ate dinner with the family five nights per week were almost twice as likely to get A’s as those who didn’t. In a study published in the book “The Case for Marriage,” Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher found a divorce doubled the likelihood the teen would drop out of high school. Divorce also reduced the likelihood a child would receive a college degree by about one-third.
Divorce had other negative impacts, too. It doubled the likelihood of experimentation with illegal substances. It increased the likelihood of mental illnesses in a child by 37 percent. It doubled the likelihood a child would be incarcerated for a crime, and doubled the likelihood a child would be having sex by age 14. And, it tripled the likelihood a girl would be an unwed mother.
So much for, “till death us do part.”
Let’s face it, whenever possible, the best place to get prepared for life, the best place to learn socialization skills, the best place to learn values, the best place to develop self-esteem, the best place for everything necessary to become a strong contributing member of a sustainable society is within a traditional family. If that is the case, why don’t we do more to advocate for the traditional marriage and family?
That answer is as simple as it is complicated. We have politicized all of the social issues that surround marriage. Radical feminists would have us believe marriage equals enslavement for the woman. The lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community seeks marriage as a way to legitimize that which has never been considered legitimate or moral. The list goes on and the children are always the ones who suffer the most and for longer than the adults.
I’m not contending that all of the children from failed relationships and single-parent families are doomed to fail. Some excel, many cope, but too many others will become virtually permanent wards of society. Welfare is a two-edged sword that provides monetary assistance to many single-parent families, but perpetuates the system, shackling nearly all of the recipients to a dungeon wall.
Government will never be the answer because all it knows how to do is write rules and spend money — please reread the previous sentence.
Society needs to find its way back to a way of living and raising our children that ennobles and enables them to achieve their full potential as productive members of society. Our fractured society and political system will eventually be healed, our economy will stabilize and thrive, and the American dream will be open to all.
Finding that way of living and raising our children is easy if you look to God and Judeo-Christian morality as the “how to” book of wisdom. Our Creator is the One we should ultimately be thanking on Nov. 28 anyway. This present mess is our fault, not His.
Well, that’s the way I see it.