Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Study: fathers are important for the development of children’s brains

Fathers and children

Fathers and children

The study was reported in the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

Dr. Braun’s group found that at 21 days, the fatherless animals had less dense dendritic spines compared to animals raised by both parents, though they “caught up” by day 90. However, the length of some types of dendrites was significantly shorter in some parts of the brain, even in adulthood, in fatherless animals.

“It just shows that parents are leaving footprints on the brain of their kids,” says Dr. Braun, 54 years old.

The neuronal differences were observed in a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is related to emotional responses and fear, and the orbitofrontal cortex, or OFC, the brain’s decision-making center.

[…]The balance between these two brain parts is critical to normal emotional and cognitive functioning, according to Dr. Braun. If the OFC isn’t active, the amygdala “goes crazy, like a horse without a rider,” she says. In the case of the fatherless pups, there were fewer dendritic spines in the OFC, while the dendrite trees in the amygdala grew more and longer branches.

A preliminary analysis of the degus’ behavior showed that fatherless animals seemed to have a lack of impulse control, Dr. Braun says. And, when they played with siblings, they engaged in more play-fighting or aggressive behavior.

In a separate study in Dr. Braun’s lab conducted by post-doctoral researcher Joerg Bock, degu pups were removed from their caregivers for one hour a day. Just this small amount of stress leads the pups to exhibit more hyperactive behaviors and less focused attention, compared to those who aren’t separated, Dr. Braun says. They also exhibit changes in their brain.

The basic wiring between the brain regions in the degus is the same as in humans, and the nerve cells are identical in their function. “So on that level we can assume that what happens in the animal’s brain when it’s raised in an impoverished environment … should be very similar to what happens in our children’s brain,” Dr. Braun says.

Read the whole thing.

I think this is important because we hear so much today that marriage can be redefined, that having one of each parent doesn’t matter, that live-in boyfriends and stepfathers have the same motivation to care for a woman’s children as the biological father does. We don’t want to make judgments, even if setting boundaries is better for children. A child’s well-being is enormously affected by the woman’s choice of biological father.  You can’t have it both ways – either we are going to judge women who choose men who don’t have the desire to commit to marriage, and do the father role, OR we are going to take things away from children by encouraging women to choose men based on “feelings” instead of abilities. Lowering moral standards and removing moral obligations hurts children. It sounds so nice when we tell women, “you can do whatever you feel like, and just forget about responsibilities, expectations and obligations”, but letting women be guided by their feelings harms children. My stock broker makes me feel uncomfortable because he knows more than I do, and does not respect my opinion. But I pay him to make investment decisions for me. I mustn’t let my pride get in the way of letting him do his job – a job he is more qualified than I am to do. Let him do his job.

Here’s a related question: Are biological fathers or unrelated men more dangerous for children?

This article from the Weekly Standard answers the question.

Excerpt:

A March 1996 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics contains some interesting findings that indicate just how widespread the problem may be. In a nationally representative survey of state prisoners jailed for assaults against or murders of children, fully one-half of respondents reported the victim was a friend, acquaintance, or relative other than offspring. (All but 3 percent of those who committed violent crimes against children were men.) A close relationship between victim and victimizer is also suggested by the fact that three-quarters of all the crimes occurred in either the perpetrator’s home or the victim’s.

A 1994 paper published in the Journal of Comparative Family Studies looked at 32,000 documented cases of child abuse. Of the victims, only 28 percent lived with both biological parents (far fewer than the 68 percent of all children who live with both parents); 44 percent lived with their mother only (as do 25 percent of all children); and 18 percent lived with their mother and an unrelated adult (double the 9 percent of all children who live with their mother and an unrelated adult).

These findings mirror a 1993 British study by the Family Education Trust, which meticulously explored the relationship between family structure and child abuse. Using data on documented cases of abuse in Britain between 1982 and 1988, the report found a high correlation between child abuse and the marital status of the parents.

Specifically, the British study found that the incidence of abuse was an astounding 33 times higher in homes where the mother was cohabiting with an unrelated boyfriend than in stable nuclear families. Even when the boyfriend was the children’s biological father, the chances of abuse were twice as high.

These findings are consonant with those published a year earlier by Leslie Margolin of the University of Iowa in the journal Child Abuse and Neglect. Prof. Margolin found that boyfriends were 27 times more likely than natural parents to abuse a child. The next-riskiest group, siblings, were only twice as likely as parents to abuse a child.

More recently, a report by Dr. Michael Stiffman presented at the latest meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in October, studied the 175 Missouri children under the age of 5 who were murdered between 1992 and 1994. It found that the risk of a child’s dying at the hands of an adult living in the child’s own household was eight times higher if the adult was biologically unrelated.

The Heritage Foundation’s Patrick Fagan discovered that the number of child-abuse cases appeared to rise in the 1980s along with the general societal acceptance of cohabitation before, or instead of, marriage. That runs counter to the radical-feminist view, which holds that marriage is an oppressive male institution of which violence is an integral feature. If that were true, then child abuse and domestic violence should have decreased along with the rise in cohabitation.

Heritage also found that in the case of very poor children (those in households earning less than $ 15,000 per year), 75 percent lived in a household where the biological father was absent. And 50 percent of adults with less than a high-school education lived in cohabitation arrangements. “This mix — poverty, lack of education, children, and cohabitation — is an incubator for violence,” Fagan says.

Why, then, do we ignore the problem? Fagan has a theory: “It is extremely politically incorrect to suggest that living together might not be the best living arrangement.”

The moral of the story is that it is a lot safer for children if we promote marriage as a way of attaching mothers and fathers to their children. Fathers who have a biological connection to children are a lot less likely to harm them. We should probably be teaching women to choose men who have a certain tenderness towards people they mentor or nurture, as well. These things are not free, you have to persuade women to value the male tendency to want to lead / guide / mentor. A lot of social problems like child poverty, promiscuity and violence cannot be solved by replacing a father with a check from the government. We need to support fathers by empowering them in their traditional roles. Let the men lead. Swallow your feminist instincts, and prefer men who take seriously their role of leading others upward.

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Should women who get pregnant after premarital sex expect the men to marry them?

Mike Adams on abortion: click for larger image.

Mike Adams on abortion: click for larger image.

Professor Mike S. Adams is pro-life, but he posted something on Facebook that I must disagree with.

He posted this:

Over 80% of post-abortive women said they would have had the baby if the guy had been supportive. Five guys find out their girl is pregnant: The first two pressure abortion, the third walks away or was never present, the fourth sticks around for 80 to 120 days, and the fifth steps up totally. This not a woman’s problem. It is a lack-of-manhood problem.

Mike has about 5000 friends, and 44 of them liked it. I would think that most of these people would call themselves pro-life conservatives. But I don’t think what he posted promotes the pro-life cause.

I replied to him with this:

Mike I could not disagree more. It’s a woman’s problem unless it is rape, since the woman consents to sex with a man she is not married to. In fact, the cause of abortion is YOUR opinion – namely, the opinion that women should not be obligated to be chaste or to think rationally about who they are having sex with. There is a path to marriage that goes through courtship, and that path has a name: self-control. Stop enabling the poor choices of women, because we have to stop the murder of unborn children.

Many of Mike’s friends supported him. So I wrote this:

Wow. I had no idea that so many of Mike’s friends think that the Bible is a pack of lies when it says that fornication is morally wrong. I guess you guys aren’t Christians then, since you feel so free and easy about revising the Bible when you feel like it.

If fornication is wrong, it’s wrong for women AND men. And you don’t fornicate and then expect happy outcomes from it. There is a word for a person who sins and then expects a good outcome. A FOOL.

Then Mike replied to me:

Sorry Wintery. Where I come from the man leads and is, therefore, responsible.

I replied to that with this:

Mike, I agree with male leading – IF the man is a Christian. But the men that these women chose are not Christians. And you can’t expect men to act morally unless they have a theistic framework that grounds morality.

Women should not be told, by you and others, that they can choose to have sex with immoral men and then expect the immoral men to act morally. That is just enabling abortion by justifying a lack of prudence and wisdom. Instead, we should be holding women accountable to choose men who WILL control themselves.

We should not be supporting the fantasy view of love that says  that recreational sex magically leads men to commit to protect, provide and lead women for life. That view is neither wise nor Biblical. On the contrary, recreational sex leads men to NOT commit. Women have to learn how to select men, to evaluate them for marriage, and to make them prove themselves. We need to tell men AND women that sex before marriage is morally wrong. And we need to be convincing by showing them how recreational sex does not lead to stable marriages, and puts children, unborn and born, in harm’s way. Telling the truth about the danger of premarital sex is the best way to stop the killing of unborn children.

Here’s an example to make the point. We do not blame bears for mauling campers. Bears are bears, and they were bears before the campers showed up in their cave. We ought to blame the camper for choosing to wander off the trail and into the bear’s den in order to PET THE BEAR. Wild bears may eat free food that is offered to them, but they are not going to let you pet them and hug them. Women, like campers, need to be responsible. They need to choose the right man for marriage. They need to exercise self control. They need to make the man prove his ability to commit and support a family BEFORE they have sex with him. No one hires an employee without understanding what job they need done and then making sure that the candidate they choose can do the job. And that’s what we need to tell women.

Obviously, I was a little upset when I wrote that, but I hope it wasn’t too bad.

So what’s the point I was trying to make by being critical of Mike? I think the problem we have today is that men who are pro-life are unwilling to hold women accountable for their own poor decisions about sex and marriage. Basically, conservative and/or Christian men think that women don’t need to think through what choices are most likely to avoid abortion and most likely to achieve marriage. These men give tacit approval to the popular trend of trying to achieve marriage through premarital sex (or cohabitation), when the research shows that these behaviors do not result in long-lasting stable marriages. In fact, sex out of wedlock is a good way to get into a situation where an abortion will occur.

In my view, Mike is inadvertently encouraging women to get into the situations where they will be pressured to abort by reinforcing the idea that there is nothing wrong with their plan to achieve marriage by having premarital sex (or cohabitating), and then expecting men to respond to their pregnancy by MARRYING them. Mike seems to be telling women that it is normal for them to expect that marriage will follow from premarital sex with men who have not been vetted for the roles of provider, protector and leader As if marriage is natural for men who don’t even have jobs and who are surrounded by women willing to have sex with them on the first date. Any man who will have recreational premarital sex with a woman is exactly the kind of person who will not commit to lifelong providing and fidelity – he is having sex before marriage because he wants recreation, without the commitment and self-sacrifice that marriage requires. Rationally speaking, it makes no sense for men to buy the cow, and to keep buying the cow with 40 years of labor, when they can get the milk for free. And that’s what we need to tell women – think with your minds, not with your emotions.

Here is an interesting statistic from Relevant Magazine:

[A] recent study reveals that 88 percent of unmarried young adults (ages 18-29) are having sex. The same study, conducted by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, reveals the number doesnʼt drop much among Christians. Of those surveyed who self-identify as “evangelical,” 80 percent say they have had sex.

[…]In addition to having premarital sex, an alarming number of unmarried Christians are getting pregnant. Among unmarried evangelical women between the ages of 18 and 29, 30 percent have experienced a pregnancy (a number thatʼs actually 1 percent higher than among those who donʼt claim to be evangelical).

According to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly half of all pregnancies in America are unintended. And of those, 40 percent end in abortion. More than 1 million abortions occur in the United States each year. But perhaps the most disturbing statistic for the Church: 65 percent of the women obtaining abortions identify themselves as either Protestant or Catholic (37 percent Protestant and 28 percent Catholic). Thatʼs 650,000 abortions obtained by Christians every year.

Christian women are not told that premarital sex is wrong by many Christians and conservatives – and out of that refusal by “Christians” and “conservatives” to take a stand, we get 650,000 abortions per year. We need to have more courage to tell women to be more self-controlled and responsible when they choose who to have sex with, and when to have sex. We need to tell women to make good decisions that lead to stable marriages. We need to tell women to study these issues and to support policies that produce strong, moral men who are willing to marry – for example, by reforming education so that our schools produce men who can find jobs, perhaps by having more male teachers in the classroom. We need to tell women to support policies that make marriage more friendly for men, like abolishing no-fault divorce, and promoting shared parenting. Christians in particular need to counteract the views of love and romance that are prevalent in popular culture with a view of relationships built around chastity and love. Although many people today are uncomfortable with moral absolutes and moral judgments, it would be a good be a good idea for women to promote these things, so that the men they are choosing from are more moral.

In the end, I agree with Mike S. Adams in one respect. Abortion may be caused by a lack of manhood problem. Only the lack of manhood doesn’t come from the men that women choose to have premarital sex with. The lack of manhood comes from men who refuse to hold women accountable for their own free foolish decisions that put unborn children in harm’s way. In addition to the abortion problem that results from those foolish decisions, there is also the explosion in out-of-wedlock births to weigh in the balance. Again, the more people tell women that they should expect men who engage in recreational sex to commit to marriage after premarital sex (or cohabitation), the more fatherlessness we get.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Should government get out of the marriage business?

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Dina sent me three articles by Jennifer Roback Morse, post on The Public Discourse. The articles answer the charge from social liberals and libertarians that we should “get the government out of marriage”.

Here’s the first article which talks about how government will still be involved in marriage, even if we get rid of the traditional definition of marriage, because of the need for dispute resolution in private marriage contracts. She uses no-fault divorce as an example showing how it was sold as a way to get government out of the divorce business. But by making divorce easier by making it require no reason, it increased the number of disputes and the need for more government to resolve these disputes.

Here’s the second article which talks about how the government will have to expand to resolve conflicts over decisions about who counts as a parent and who gets parental rights. With traditional marriage, identifying who the parents are is easy. But with private marriage contracts where the parties are not the biological parents, there is a need for the state to step in and assign parental rights.

Here’s the third article which talks about how marriage is necessary in order to defend the needs and rights of the child at a time when they cannot enter into contracts and be parties to legal disputes.

The third article was my favorite, so here is an excerpt from it:

The fact of childhood dependence raises a whole series of questions. How do we get from a position of helpless dependence and complete self-centeredness, to a position of independence and respect for others? Are our views of the child somehow related to the foundations of a free society? And, to ask a question that may sound like heresy to libertarian ears: Do the needs of children place legitimate demands and limitations on the behavior of adults?

I came to the conclusion that a free society needs adults who can control themselves, and who have consciences. A free society needs people who can use their freedom, without bothering other people too much. We need to respect the rights of others, keep our promises, and restrain ourselves from taking advantage of others.

We learn to do these things inside the family, by being in a relationship with our parents. We can see this by looking at attachment- disordered children and failure-to-thrive children from orphanages and foster care. These children have their material needs met, for food, clothing, and medical care. But they are not held, or loved, or looked at. They simply do not develop properly, without mothers and fathers taking personal care of them. Some of them never develop consciences. But a child without a conscience becomes a real problem: this is exactly the type of child who does whatever he can get away with. A free society can’t handle very many people like that, and still function.

In other words I asked, “Do the needs of society place constraints on how we treat children?” But even this analysis still views the child from society’s perspective. It is about time we look at it from the child’s point of view, and ask a different kind of question. What is owed to the child?

Children are entitled to a relationship with both of their parents. They are entitled to know who they are and where they came from. Therefore children have a legitimate interest in the stability of their parents’ union, since that is ordinarily how kids have relationships with both parents. If Mom and Dad are quarreling, or if they live on opposite sides of the country, the child’s connection with one or both of them is seriously impaired.

But children cannot defend their rights themselves. Nor is it adequate to intervene after the fact, after harm already has been done. Children’s relational and identity rights must be protected proactively.

Marriage is society’s institutional structure for protecting these legitimate rights and interests of children.

I recommend taking a look at all three articles and becoming familiar with the arguments in case you have to explain why marriage matters and why we should not change it. I think it is important to read these articles and to be clear that to be a libertarian doctrine does not protect the right of a child to have a relationship with both his or her parents.  Nor does libertarianism promote the idea that parents ought to stick together for their children.

The purpose of marriage is to make adults make careful commitments, and restrain their desires and feelings, so that children will have a stable environment with their biological parents. We do make exceptions, but we should not celebrate exceptions and we should not subsidize exceptions. It’s not fair to children to have to grow up without a mother or father just so that they adults can make poor, emotional decisions and have fun.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Lightning round: Ryan T. Anderson answers several questions about marriage

John Stonestreet interviews marriage defender Ryan T. Anderson: (Source: The Colson Center)

Questions:

  • Don’t gay couples have a right to express their love in marriage like everyone else?
  • How would legalizing gay marriage hurt your marriage?
  • Marriage is already in such bad shape, how could it hurt marriage to allow more people to marry?
  • Aren’t natural marriage proponents on the “wrong side of history”?

Every word counts in this concise primer on defending marriage. Blink, and you’ll miss pure gold.

You can watch Ryan debate gay marriage at Arizona State University right here.

Filed under: Videos, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Should government get out of the marriage business?

Dina sent me three articles by Jennifer Roback Morse, post on The Public Discourse. The articles answer the charge from social liberals and libertarians that we should “get the government out of marriage”.

Here’s the first article which talks about how government will still be involved in marriage, even if we get rid of the traditional definition of marriage, because of the need for dispute resolution in private marriage contracts. She uses no-fault divorce as an example showing how it was sold as a way to get government out of the divorce business. But by making divorce easier by making it require no reason, it increased the number of disputes and the need for more government to resolve these disputes.

Here’s the second article which talks about how the government will have to expand to resolve conflicts over decisions about who counts as a parent and who gets parental rights. With traditional marriage, identifying who the parents are is easy. But with private marriage contracts where the parties are not the biological parents, there is a need for the state to step in and assign parental rights.

Here’s the third article which talks about how marriage is necessary in order to defend the needs and rights of the child at a time when they cannot enter into contracts and be parties to legal disputes.

The third article was my favorite, so here is an excerpt from it:

The fact of childhood dependence raises a whole series of questions. How do we get from a position of helpless dependence and complete self-centeredness, to a position of independence and respect for others? Are our views of the child somehow related to the foundations of a free society? And, to ask a question that may sound like heresy to libertarian ears: Do the needs of children place legitimate demands and limitations on the behavior of adults?

I came to the conclusion that a free society needs adults who can control themselves, and who have consciences. A free society needs people who can use their freedom, without bothering other people too much. We need to respect the rights of others, keep our promises, and restrain ourselves from taking advantage of others.

We learn to do these things inside the family, by being in a relationship with our parents. We can see this by looking at attachment- disordered children and failure-to-thrive children from orphanages and foster care. These children have their material needs met, for food, clothing, and medical care. But they are not held, or loved, or looked at. They simply do not develop properly, without mothers and fathers taking personal care of them. Some of them never develop consciences. But a child without a conscience becomes a real problem: this is exactly the type of child who does whatever he can get away with. A free society can’t handle very many people like that, and still function.

In other words I asked, “Do the needs of society place constraints on how we treat children?” But even this analysis still views the child from society’s perspective. It is about time we look at it from the child’s point of view, and ask a different kind of question. What is owed to the child?

Children are entitled to a relationship with both of their parents. They are entitled to know who they are and where they came from. Therefore children have a legitimate interest in the stability of their parents’ union, since that is ordinarily how kids have relationships with both parents. If Mom and Dad are quarreling, or if they live on opposite sides of the country, the child’s connection with one or both of them is seriously impaired.

But children cannot defend their rights themselves. Nor is it adequate to intervene after the fact, after harm already has been done. Children’s relational and identity rights must be protected proactively.

Marriage is society’s institutional structure for protecting these legitimate rights and interests of children.

I recommend taking a look at all three articles and becoming familiar with the arguments in case you have to explain why marriage matters and why we should not change it. I think it is important to read these articles and to be clear that to be a libertarian doctrine does not protect the right of a child to have a relationship with both his or her parents.  Nor does libertarianism promote the idea that parents ought to stick together for their children.

The purpose of marriage is to make adults make careful commitments, and restrain their desires and feelings, so that children will have a stable environment with their biological parents. We do make exceptions, but we should not celebrate exceptions and we should not subsidize exceptions. It’s not fair to children to have to grow up without a mother or father just so that they adults can make poor, emotional decisions and have fun.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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