Popeye the Sailor is a 1930s comic strip character who is still popular through home video productions of the television cartoon series. What stands out in the old Popeye series are the "Popeye Moments." That's when Popeye has had all he can take. At that point Popeye says, "I've had all I can stand! I can't stands no more!" He flexes his biceps and off he goes to straighten things out.
Those of us who work on America's cultural and domestic issues know exactly how Popeye felt. There are moments when we can't stand any more; we've had all we can stand, and we "can't stands no more!"
America stands at a Popeye Moment regarding children living in fatherless families, and we need to do everything we can to "straighten things out."
We've had plenty of warning about illegitimacy and the very real dangers of "father absence." Somehow, though, the ever increasing trends have not really set off an alarm in the public square.
In the mid-60s, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned us about the dangers of fatherless families, yet while the statistics have steadily increased, it has been politically incorrect to warn against "illegitimacy." Little attention has been given when researchers and social analysts have cited the predictable negative outcomes of an absent father in the family or when they have spread the news that illegitimacy feeds on itself –– the daughters of unwed mothers are more likely to have children out of wedlock. For years, nobody really noticed or cared when conservative lobbyists and activists provided strong evidence that sex should be reserved for marriage and that the married mother and father provide the best place for raising children.
Yet in recent years, our work has produced widespread promotion of increasingly more sophisticated and effective abstinence-until-marriage programs. As a result, teen childbearing has dropped dramatically since the early 1990s. This decrease shows the positive impact of abstinence programs on the teen birth rate as well as the teen abortion rate – which has dropped even more than the teen birth rates.
Even so, the latest figures from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reveal that well over one-third (36.8 percent) of all American children (2 out of 5) are born out of wedlock. Illegitimate births total over 1.5 million a year. Unbelievably, it is not teenage hormones that are driving this disastrous increase. Instead, single adult women are the ones who are having the babies without marrying the father. The upward trend of unwed births to mothers over age 20 has steadily increased since 1975; this, in spite of the fact that birth control is readily available and that these women are old enough to know better.
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