Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

New study: single motherhood hampers the development of children

From the liberal newspaper USA Today, of all places.

Excerpt: (links removed)

A few small, high-quality programs have shown enduring benefits for at-risk kids. But intensive study of Head Start, the nation’s largest and oldest preschool program, finds that the beneficial effects, which are real, wear off by third grade.

The probable reason is not hard to deduce. Children are most likely to succeed in school when pushed by parents who provide stability, help with schooling, and instill an education and work ethic. But for decades now, the American family has been breaking down.

Two-fifths of children born in the USA are born to unmarried mothers, an eightfold increase since 1960. Many succeed thanks to the heroic efforts of strong, motivated single parents and other relatives. But research shows that children of single parents suffer disproportionately high poverty rates, impaired development and low performance in school.

Ron Haskins, an expert on children and families at the Brookings Institution, calls single parenthood a “little motor pushing up the poverty rate.” In 2011, the rate for children of single mothers was more than four times greater than that for children of married couples.

Researchers at Princeton and Columbia, following 5,000 children born to married and unmarried parents, have found that the effects of single parenthood seep into every aspect of kids’ lives.

A typical pattern in these “fragile families” looks like this: When a child is born, most fathers and mothers are in a committed relationship. By the time the child reaches 5, though, many fathers have disappeared. As the mothers move on to new relationships, the children face more instability, often with new siblings born to different fathers. Boys without strong male role models are more likely to turn to gangs and crime.

Single mothers read less to their children, are more likely to use harsh discipline and are less likely to maintain stable routines, such as a regular bedtime. All these behaviors are important predictors of children’s health and development.

It is a tragically familiar pattern. In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then a Johnson administration official and later a U.S. senator, warned about an alarming rise — to nearly 24% — in unmarried births in the black community. His prescient warning created a furor among liberals and civil rights leaders, who accused him of blaming the victim. The rates are now 73% for blacks, 53% for Hispanics and 29% for whites.

That’s why I find it so strange that Obama is pushing for more funding for government-run early childhood education, i.e. – “Head Start”. The government’s own studies have shown that Head Start doesn’t work.

In fact, you can argue that Democrat policies actually undermine the family, by paying women to have babies out of wedlock.

Cato Institute economist Dr. Michael Tanner explains:

At the same time, the evidence of a link between the availability of welfare and out-of-wedlock births is overwhelming. There have been 13 major studies of the relationship between the availability of welfare benefits and out-of-wedlock birth. Of these, 11 found a statistically significant correlation. Among the best of these studies is the work done by June O’Neill for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Holding constant a wide range of variables, including income, education, and urban vs. suburban setting, the study found that a 50 percent increase in the value of AFDC and foodstamp payments led to a 43 percent increase in the number of out-of-wedlock births.(7) Likewise, research by Shelley Lundberg and Robert Plotnick of the University of Washington showed that an increase in welfare benefits of $200 per month per family increased the rate of out-of-wedlock births among teenagers by 150 percent.(8)

The same results can be seen from welfare systems in other countries. For example, a recent study of the impact of Canada’s social-welfare system on family structure concluded that “providing additional benefits to single parents encourages births of children to unwed women.”(9)

Of course women do not get pregnant just to get welfare benefits. It is also true that a wide array of other social factors has contributed to the growth in out-of-wedlock births. But, by removing the economic consequences of a out-of-wedlock birth, welfare has removed a major incentive to avoid such pregnancies. A teenager looking around at her friends and neighbors is liable to see several who have given birth out of wedlock. When she sees that they have suffered few visible immediate consequences (the very real consequences of such behavior are often not immediately apparent), she is less inclined to modify her own behavior to prevent pregnancy.

Proof of this can be found in a study by Professor Ellen Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania, who surveyed black, never-pregnant females age 17 or younger. Only 40% of those surveyed said that they thought becoming pregnant in the next year “would make their situation worse.”(10) Likewise, a study by Professor Laurie Schwab Zabin for the Journal of Research on Adolescence found that: “in a sample of inner-city black teens presenting for pregnancy tests, we reported that more than 31 percent of those who elected to carry their pregnancy to term told us, before their pregnancy was diagnosed, that they believed a baby would present a problem…”(11) In other words, 69 percent either did not believe having a baby out-of-wedlock would present a problem or were unsure.

Until teenage girls, particularly those living in relative poverty, can be made to see real consequences from pregnancy, it will be impossible to gain control over the problem of out-of- wedlock births. By disguising those consequences, welfare makes it easier for these girls to make the decisions that will lead to unwed motherhood.

Current welfare policies seem to be designed with an appallingly lack of concern for their impact on out-of-wedlock births. Indeed, Medicaid programs in 11 states actually provide infertility treatments to single women on welfare.(12)

I should also point out that, once the child is born, welfare also appears to discourage the mother from marrying in the future. Research by Robert Hutchins of Cornell University shows that a 10 percent increase in AFDC benefits leads to an eight percent decrease in the marriage rate of single mothers.(13)

As welfare contributes to the rise in out-of-wedlock births and single-parent families, it concomitantly contributes to the associated increase in criminal activity.

Democrats also support the normalizing recreational sex for young children and handing out contraceptives to students without the permission or knowledge of parents. What kind of lasting bond can you create when people have had dozens of sexual partners and have been indoctrinated to view sex as a recreational activity? It just trivializes relationships so that they about sex and fun, instead of being about self-sacrifice, commitment and responsibility. If we are serious about helping children, we need to keep feminists and government out of love and marriage.

The first thing to fix is the widespread belief that men do not have any special roles, and fathers can be substituted for with welfare checks and government programs. Women need to think through what marriage is like, and then control their feelings in order to choose the right man for the roles of husband and father. That is the real cure for single motherhood. The strangest thing in the world I hear from women is what good mothers they would make, and that’s why they should be allowed to use a sperm donor to have a fatherless child. I think that any woman who would contemplate subjecting a child to fatherlessness by choice is by definition someone who does not know or care about the needs of the child. What is amazing to me is many “socially conservative” Christians treat single motherhood as something heroic and praiseworthy, instead of treating it as reckless and harmful to children.

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One Response

  1. Kunoichi says:

    “Of course women do not get pregnant just to get welfare benefits.”

    Sadly, that is not true. Granted, our system is different in Canada (we don’t have food stamps, for example, but we do have an alternative) but it fosters the same dependancy. I remember my parents having a tenant that was a 3rd generation welfare recipient, with another generation well on its way. She had several children from different fathers. As long as she had a child under school age, she didn’t have to look for a job. She was far from unique. A woman I know was evicted from her apartment a few years back when the building was converted to social housing. Turns out she was the only person in the building with a job. (She was a single mother, too, but unfortunately, her daughter didn’t pick up on her mother’s strong work ethic. Her son did.) All the other tenants were on welfare, and openly mocked her for working so hard while they lounged around at home.

    Sadly, this was as much a part of being Native as being on welfare, as the culture of dependancy on the reserves is very strong in that region. The system is a real trap.

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