NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--A recent study found a growing acceptance of nearly all types of nontraditional families in the United States, except single motherhood, which most respondents in the survey said is detrimental to society.
As The Washington Post noted, two decades after TV's Murphy Brown caused a public uproar by having a child without a husband, many people still have a problem with such a scenario.
The Post said the poll, released by the Pew Research Center in February, otherwise illustrates how dramatically attitudes have changed from the not-so-distant past when the typical family was a married couple with children and other kinds of families were considered abnormal.
Pew said the American public is divided in its judgments about the changes in the structure of the American family that have unfolded in the past 50 years. About a third generally accept the changes, a third are tolerant but skeptical and a third consider them bad for society, Pew said.
Seven trends were considered: more unmarried couples raising children, more homosexual couples raising children, more single women having children without a male partner to help raise them, more people living together without getting married, more mothers of young children working outside the home, more people of different races marrying each other, and more women not ever having children.
Pew divided the respondents into categories of Accepters, Rejecters and Skeptics.
"Overall, relatively small percentages of Accepters, Rejecters and Skeptics say any of the seven trends have been 'a good thing for society.' But the three groups differ sharply on whether each of these seven changes has been bad or has had no significant impact," Pew said.
"Perhaps the most striking difference occurs in attitudes toward single motherhood between the two more tolerant groups. Virtually all Skeptics (99 percent) say the increase in single motherhood is bad for society," researchers said. "In contrast nearly nine-in-10 Accepters say the increase in single women having children has made no difference (74 percent) or 'is a good thing for society' (13 percent)."
The two groups would merge into a single group based on their responses, Pew said, if not for the question about single motherhood because their responses on other types of families were similar.
Pew said religious observance produces the most significant differences in views, with more than half of those who attend services once a week or more falling into the Rejecters category. Adults who rarely or never go to services are more than twice as likely to be members of the Accepters group.
"Working mothers are acceptable to almost everybody," Andrew Cherlin, a Johns Hopkins University sociologist, told The Post. "Two parents who are unmarried are tolerated or acceptable. But many people, including single parents themselves, question single-parent families. There's still a strong belief that children need two parents."
BOY REFUSES TO WRESTLE GIRL -- Joel Northrup made the news recently after refusing by matter of conviction to wrestle a girl during a state tournament, even though it would cost him a good chance at a title he had worked long and hard at winning.
Northrup, a homeschooled high school sophomore whose father is a Pentecostal minister, defaulted in the first round of the Iowa state wrestling tournament when he was matched with one of two girls to ever make it to the contest.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy and Megan and their accomplishments," Northrup said in a statement. "However, wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times. As a matter of conscience and my faith I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner. It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most other high school sports in Iowa."
National pundits quickly pounced on Northrup's decision as a slight to the girls who had earned the right to wrestle boys at the state tournament. They called him "sorely misguided" and characterized him as afraid of touching a girl.
But R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the great unfairness is that Northrup was put in such a position in the first place.
"This is insanity masquerading as athletic competition. The controversy over the Iowa state wrestling tournament reveals the fact that this debate represents a clash of worlds and worldviews," Mohler wrote on his blog Feb. 22.
"In one world -- the world that increasingly demands the total erasure of distinctions between men and women -- Joel Northrup is considered to be a religious nut. In this world, it makes sense that girls wrestle against boys and that society should celebrate this new development as a milestone in the struggle to free ourselves from the limitations of all gender roles. As if to make this point impossible to miss, Bill Herkelman, Cassy's father, said: 'She's my son. She's always been my son.'
"In the other world, Joel Northrup is seen as a young man of brave and noble conscience -- a boy who defaulted a match rather than violate his conscience. The statements offered by Joel and his father are seen as moments of temporary sanity in a world going increasingly mad," Mohler wrote. "The chivalry demonstrated at great personal cost by this boy athlete is to be celebrated, affirmed, and acknowledged as being deeply rooted in his Christian convictions -- convictions about gender, modesty, the treatment of girls and women, propriety, decorum, and sexual purity."
Erin Roach is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.
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