We are drawing to the end of the year of the Family as designated by Pope Francis and the Roman Catholic Church. The basic family unit, s far as the Church and several millennia of human history is concerned, consists of a mother (female) and father (male) and children, as many as God wishes to send. Of course, through-out human history, many women died during child birth, therefore, it has never been unusual for other relatives and even strangers to take over the role of parent. In fact, until the middle of the Twentieth century, teachers were considered in locus parentis. However, within the last generation (25 years) the Western World has looked to other configurations of family. There are families with two fathers, two mothers, one mother, an absent father, a few children, not necessarily from the same father and grand parents raising the children of their children. Psychologists, sociologists, religious leaders and others are concerned about the impact of those new configurations on the psyche of the children being raised in family structures deliberately different from what has been considered the norm.
In addition to changing family structures, the economic gap between richer and poor parents has widened. Wealthier parents spend more time and money on and with their progeny than poor parents. Ironically, both sets of parents want the same things for their children, according to a recent Pew study. Parents want their children to be healthy, happy, honest, ethical, caring and compassionate. While wealthier parents seem to consider their children “projects”, poorer parents give their children more freedom to grow. In early adulthood the children who have been raised as projects have the skills needed to be successful, productive adults. The result of historically high numbers of children living in single parent homes is that they are three times more likely to live in poverty as those with married parents.
The Pew study and other researchers recently quoted in The Upshot section of the December 18, 2015 NYT, conclude that no specific philosophy or religious affiliation seem to make a difference in the up-bringing of children. Who says so? Perhaps the researchers haven’t done their research. Time and again, even in the modern Western world, religious affiliation makes a statistical difference in the ethical behavior and the economic productivity of young adults.
Empirical researchers and psychiatrists are too concerned about the political correctness of their findings. They will never recommend that society take steps to insure that children are raised in a loving, reflective, spiritual environment. And, that the best place to find that combination is in a two parent home (one mother, one father). The Women’s Liberation movement of the 1970’s did a great deal to raise the bar on equal pay for equal work; The Pill liberated women from sexual inhibitions; Roe vs. Wade made it easy for women to “make mistakes” and not to be stigmatized. Unfortunately, too many, mostly poor, women did not understand, or chose to ignore, that freedom of choice does not free one from responsibility. Who is going to tell young women that choosing single motherhood is not the best thing for herself, or for her child?