Marcia Segelstein has covered family issues for over 20 years as a producer for CBS News and as a columnist. She has written for FoxNews.com, “First Things,” “World Magazine,” and “Touchstone.” She is a Senior Editor for “SALVO” magazine.
Over the past few decades, our culture has come to accept a broad range of living arrangements for adults and children. Gone are the days when living together without marriage was frowned on. Today cohabitation is pervasive. Single parenthood, once rare and scandalous, has become just another no-big-deal situation. Same-sex marriage is now the law of the land, and the once-controversial book “Heather Has Two Mommies” has become a fact of life for children in same-sex households. Divorce is so widespread it’s difficult to find a family that hasn’t been touched by it.
In the not-too-distant past traditional marriages and families were considered the gold standard for raising children. But these days even suggesting that one living arrangement is better than another is grounds for condemnation and accusations of hate speech. Now we must not only accept the alternatives as equally sound, we must embrace and even celebrate them.
The fact is, however, that social science unequivocally supports the politically incorrect verdict that children fare best when raised with their two married biological parents (in a low-conflict marriage).
There are few individuals, much less organizations, willing to publicly support this research-based conclusion. The American College of Pediatricians is one of them. In a recently published piece on its website about the benefits of marriage, the organization wrote this:
“While it is impossible to change our society to accommodate traditional marriage and family as it once did, we must recognize that the value of marriage is about more than just the husband and the wife and their individual wants and needs. It is the key to the happiness and success of the next generation and the establishment of a healthy and moral society.”
In another post called “Marriage and Family,” the ACPeds website listed some of the benefits children reap by living with their married mother and father. Here are just a few:
- The National Center for Health Statistics found that children living with their married parents needed professional help for behavior and psychological problems at half the rate of children not living with both biologic parents.
- Children with married parents are substantially less likely to cause problems at school, use drugs including alcohol, be prematurely/promiscuously sexually active, or participate in violent or criminal behavior.
- Numerous studies indicate that children living in homes with a non-biological adult, especially a male, face substantially elevated risk of physical abuse, even death.
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I interviewed Dr. Russell Gombosi, a Fellow at the American College of Pediatricians, about the importance of family structure for children. Dr. Gombosi has been a pediatrician for 28 years and is the married Catholic father of three daughters.
Q. Parents get a lot of advice in the media on topics like getting the best toys, the safest car seats and the healthiest food for their children, but I don’t hear much about the importance of raising them in an intact, traditional marriage. Why do you think that is?
A. In fact there’s an antagonism about it. It’s become a socially conservative view and it’s not politically correct. Not only is it not discussed, those who support these traditional arrangements are attacked as haters. This is why the American College of Pediatricians was formed: because the American Academy of Pediatrics adopted and accepted these alternative arrangements as being equally good for children. The Southern Poverty Law Center has even labeled us a hate group for our views. It’s hard for an individual or an organization to stand against the prevailing view of the culture. So you have a lot of people who just stay quiet out of fear of retribution. Not only is it not discussed, we can’t have a civil discussion about it. We’re taught to love our neighbors as ourselves, but that has been twisted into requiring us to support whatever choices people make. And that’s moral relativism.
Q. It’s not uncommon for schools to introduce children to the idea that all family structures and situations are equal. It happened in my children’s school. Of course we want to teach children not to be biased and not to bully, but it’s really presenting false information.
A. This feeling of not wanting to reject anybody and wanting to love our neighbor prevents us from promoting what is ideal for children. High schools, even middle schools, should be teaching the value of marriage. Students should be taught about how to maintain a strong and healthy marriage. They should be taught about delaying childbirth until marriage.
Q. Let’s talk about divorce. Divorce carries specific risks for children, doesn’t it?
A. It does. The age at which divorce occurs is important. For instance, young children, especially those under the age of six, will believe the divorce was their fault. There’s an increased risk of anxiety, depression, and even in some cases post-traumatic stress disorder. Divorce for the average child is a very significant adverse childhood experience. Children of divorce have a higher risk of divorce themselves. They lack the example of parents showing them how to overcome differences, how to work together as a team. Of course there are certain situations where it’s best that parents do split, especially in cases of abuse and violence.
Q. It's as though we as a society haven’t found the right balance between accepting these alternative situations with love, while still acknowledging that they’re not ideal for children.
A. That’s right. I think the solution is to be honest with ourselves as a culture and start educating. If we’re going to have sex education, why not have marriage education where children learn the value and importance of the intact family for providing the best outcomes for children. That’s a step we need to be willing to take at some point before we unravel completely.
Here’s how the ACPeds website sums it up:
“The American College of Pediatricians wants parents, pediatricians, and policy makers to understand that the enduring, healthy, harmonious marriage between a man and a woman not only brings health, happiness and fulfillment to the adults, but these benefits also flow to their children! Society encourages many other healthful activities, so there are compelling reasons for society to encourage efforts to make marriages work as well. Married biologic parents are a rich resource for health and wellness for children. Society must take an interest in promoting the public institution of marriage as the foundation of the natural family. This is the best for children. We expect society’s support and we expect our nation to advocate for nothing less.”