And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell and great was its fall. (Matt. 7:26-27 NASB)
A structure is only as strong as its foundation. If the foundation is sound, chances are the structure will be able to weather most any storm. But if the foundation is not secure, even the slightest stress can produce serious damage.
The family unit is the foundation of civilization. Healthy families are the basis of a strong and stable society. As the family goes, so goes the nation. No society can continue to flourish if its families are weak. A close examination of the state of America's families, therefore, should concern all who aspire to see our country remain strong and healthy.
Marriage and Divorce
The marital unit is the foundation of the family, but any honest observer must acknowledge that the institution of marriage is in trouble in America. The current divorce rate is almost double the divorce rate in 1960. For every two couples who get married today, another couple gets divorced. The probability of a first marriage ending in separation or divorce within ten years is 33%. That probability increases to 43% if you use a 15 year time frame. The prevalence of no-fault divorce laws has made the covenant of marriage the easiest of all contracts to break. Getting out of marriage is the easy part, but there is nothing easy about the consequences of the break-up.
Disillusioned by what they see happening to their parents' marriages, more and more young people are cohabiting without the benefit of marriage. The marriage rate has decreased by approximately 50% since 1970. It's now lower than it has ever been. The number of couples living together without marrying has increased more than tenfold since 1960. Fifty percent of all first marriages are now preceded by cohabitation (Larry Bumpass and Hsien-Hen Lu, "Trends in Cohabitation and Implications for Children's Family Contexts in the U.S.," Population Studies 54 (2000): 29-41). Between 1990 and 2005, cohabitation in the United States increased a whopping 70%!
About half of cohabiting couples ages 25-34 have children in their households. That does not augur well for the children or the country. Children of cohabitants are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems and experience greater education difficulties. They are also more likely to be economically disadvantaged.
In light of the high rates of cohabitation, it should come as no surprise that the rate of illegitimacy in America has skyrocketed. Today in the U.S., 37% of all children are born out of wedlock. In 2005, 1.5 million children were born to unmarried women. While the birth rate among married women has decreased by 43% since 1960, it has doubled among unmarried women.
The future for children in single parent families is often dim. Adolescents from single parent families are twice as likely to drop out of school and to have an out of wedlock birth before age twenty. Children living with a single mother are six times more likely to live in poverty than children in an intact family.
Biotechnology is transforming attitudes about the role of marriage, as well as the nature of humanity. In 2002, the Washington Post reported on a deaf lesbian couple who recruited a congenitally deaf sperm donor so that they could produce deaf children. The couple planned no role for the father. His role was limited to that of a mere inseminator. Fathers are deemed superfluous by lesbian couples who decide to have children. Prominent notables among such couples include the daughter of the Vice President of the United States.
The push is on to redefine marriage to extend the bonds of matrimony to include same sex couples. Homosexual parenting is advocated by prestigious organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the American Psychological Association, among others. Studies show, however, that there is a greater incidence of depression, promiscuity, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence among homosexuals than among heterosexual couples. Further, homosexuals have a shorter life expectancy than heterosexuals—no small consideration to take into account when taking on the responsibility of raising children.
Advocates of homosexual parenting discount the roles that the different sexes contribute to the development of children. The notion that it's not important to have a mother and father involved in the development of a child defies common sense and experience. Most single moms struggling to raise kids by themselves will attest to the value a dad brings when it comes to disciplining children. Numerous studies attest to the important (and admittedly, different) roles that moms and dads contribute to the shaping of their boys and girls.
The American family is under siege and confronted with a host of societal and economic pressures that threaten its undoing. Those who aspire to a just society will do well to try to counteract those pressures, to promote policies that strengthen families, and to model healthy families to those around them.