November 23, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
This being an article on a feminist website, it’s hard to know if the writer is being intentionally misleading or really just doesn’t know any better (Everyday Feminism, 11/19/16). It’s probably a combination of the two, but whatever the case, it gets things wrong at every turn.
Ellen Friedrichs’ article is about marriage and – guess what – she’s against it. Unsurprisingly, according to her, marriage is the seat of patriarchal oppression of women and children and so should be shunned. The decline in marriage rates is a good thing and no one is the worse off because of it.
How does she figure? Well, in the time-honored manner of gender feminists, Friedrichs uses weasel words and straw men to prop up her largely insupportable claims.
Weasel words? Try “inherently” on for size. Friedrichs calls it a “lie that married parents are inherently better for children.” The trouble is that no one’s ever made that statement, so her point is moot. No one claims that marriage is inherently good for kids or anyone else.
What countless people have said however is that, overwhelmingly, kids do better when they’re raised by two married parents. That’s the conclusion drawn by Malin Bergstrom’s analysis of some 150,000 Swedish kids in households with married parents, two unmarried parents and single parents. It’s also the conclusion drawn by countless other studies of children with parents of all races, income brackets, educational levels, religions, etc. By now, there is simply no doubt about the value of married parents to kids.
What no study has ever pretended to conclude is that no child can be brought up well by a single parent or by unmarried parents. That’s what makes Friedrichs’ use of “inherently” a weasel word. We’re not supposed to notice it, but it makes all the difference to her conclusion.
And of course she proceeds to make the point even more clearly by spending a lot of time and words on herself and her experiences not only as a child but as a parent.
That’s something that makes sense to me personally as someone who has parented with a partner to whom I wasn’t married, single parented, and also parented with a partner to whom I was married.
What I’ve experienced is that legal status didn’t make me any better at my job or make me more secure in a relationship, but what it did do was legitimize my family and provide an extra level of security.
So Friedrichs’ first idea of how to assess the importance of marriage to everyone is to look mostly at herself. Her second is to expect walking down the aisle to “make me better at my job or more secure in a relationship.” The simple, basic idea that her experience is almost completely irrelevant to whether marriage generally helps kids or not escapes her. Does she realize that hers is just one point on a graph of millions?
And where’d she get the idea that, in some way, a marriage license issued by her state of residence would cause her to be different from what she otherwise is? Maybe she got that message when she was eight years old and never bothered to scrutinize it, but it’s a childish concept she should discard. Needless to say, the notion that saying “I do” works miracles is just one of many strawmen Friedrichs relies on in lieu of genuine arguments.
The reality is that, on average, marriage is the best situation for kids and adults alike for any number of reasons, none of which does Friedrichs mention. Kids who grow up in homes with two married parents are on average, better off emotionally, physically and psychologically than are their peers from single-parent homes. They’re less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and the girls are less likely to become pregnant during their teen years. They’re less likely to be involved in crime and they do better in school. To Friedrichs, all that is as nothing.
Nor does she grasp one of the primary reasons for those many, well-documented deficits exhibited by kids of unmarried parents. Much social science demonstrates that unmarried relationships die quicker than do married ones. And when a man moves in with a woman with a child who’s not his, the relationship is shakier still. My guess is that even Friedrichs can grasp the fact that that sort of upheaval in a child’s life tends to be detrimental. That’s probably why she left out the information on marriage and relationship stability.
And, if she were really interested in children’s welfare, she’d have noticed that kids in a home with Mom and her unmarried boyfriend are at far greater risk of abuse and neglect than any other kids in society. But no. That too managed to end up on the editing room floor.
And of course adults benefit from marriage too. Married men are more likely to be employed, less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol and less likely to commit crimes. Married women are safer from physical harm than are any other women in society. Plus, they’re more affluent. Again, none of that bears mentioning by Friedrichs.
I’ll deal with this more in due course.
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