The Crackup Of The American Family: What To Do?

What is family fragmentation? The facts are easy to state

“The numbers that show that children raised by their two biological (or adoptive) parents do substantially better in every respect in life than those who are not. They do better in school and in higher education, they do better at jobs and economically, they develop more stable and lasting relationships personally.”

 

How big a problem is family fragmentation? “Immense,” says Mitch Pearlstein, head of the Minnesota think tank Center of the American Experiment — “the biggest domestic problem facing this country.”

So big he went out and interviewed 40 experts of varying ideology across the nation and relayed their answers in his book “Broken Bonds: What Family Fragmentation Means for America’s Future.”

That’s the good news. The bad news is that none of the experts is confident he has an answer, and neither is Pearlstein.

What is family fragmentation? The facts are easy to state.

About 40 percent of babies born in America these days are born outside of marriage — about 30 percent of non-Hispanic whites, more than 50 percent of Hispanics and more than 70 percent of blacks.

Back in 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan was prompted to write his report on the black family when the out-of-wedlock birth rate of blacks was 25 percent. He believed, correctly, that this spelled trouble ahead.

Half a century later that’s the figure for supposedly privileged non-Hispanic whites.

Scandinavian countries also have high out-of-marriage birth rates, but couples tend to stay together and raise their children to adulthood. In America, not so much.

Pearlstein notes that the percentage of children living with two parents in 2009 was 86 percent among Asians, 75 among non-Hispanic whites, 67 percent among Hispanics and 37 percent among blacks.

But these numbers include step-parents. When you take into account findings that child abuse by stepfathers is substantially above average, that’s not entirely good news.

The numbers that show that children raised by their two biological (or adoptive) parents do substantially better in every respect in life than those who are not.

They do better in school and in higher education, they do better at jobs and economically, they develop more stable and lasting relationships personally.

They’re more likely to earn success — what American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks identifies as the chief source of personal satisfaction and happiness.

Confronted with those facts, most Americans’ impulse is to be wary of passing judgment on single parents. Some of them indeed do raise children who do well. Yet many struggle through difficulties that happily married parents seldom experience.

Back in the culturally conformist America of the mid-20th century, there was a stigma against unmarried parenthood and divorce. Marriage rates were higher and divorce rates much lower. But there’s little sign that such a stigma will return.

Even among cultural and religious conservatives, there is no perceptible move to repeal the no-fault divorce laws that almost every state passed in the 1970s.

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