Tim Goeglein is a vice president of Focus on the Family and a Missouri Synod Lutheran. With Craig Osten, he coauthored an article in The Federalist on the demise of the American family.
They discuss a report from the Social Capital Project of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee that gives some eye-opening and — from a Christian point of view — disturbing information.
Today, two-thirds of all marriages are preceded by cohabitation, by just “living together.” Sixty years ago, only 1% of couples lived together before marriage. Today, this has become the typical practice. And this is for couples who do get married. More and more, they never bother. In 1962, 71% of women under 44 were married. Today, the percentage is just 42%. Thus, the majority are not married.
Despite this decline in marriage, couples are still having children. In 1962, 5% of children were born to an unwed mother. Today, the percentage is 40%.
In 1960, only 2% of white babies were born out of wedlock. Today the percentage is 28%. The percentage is even higher for Hispanics (50%) and blacks (80%). When you break down the categories by education, regardless of race or ethnicity, two-thirds of the children born to women without a high school education are being raised by single mothers.
Raising children can be a challenge for anyone, and it’s even harder when there is no father in the picture. Single moms struggle with the economic, emotional and social problems of parenting their children alone.
What about the men? “One of the constant complaints we hear from young women is the lack of marriageable men and the abundance of men who are not financially and emotionally prepared to be a husband and father,” note the authors. Often, they say, men “pursue self-fulfillment instead of being emotionally ready to embrace the responsibility of being a devoted husband and father.”
This creates a vicious cycle when the next generation of young men grow up without a father in their lives.
With the decline of marriage, and particularly of fathers, these young men lack models to follow. Add in a society that treats marriage as just an option rather than a requirement for male-female unions and the rise of internet pornography that treats women as objects to discard rather than individuals to love, honor and cherish, then you have created an opt-out for men to take responsibility for their lives.
This breakdown of marriage and parenthood is at the heart of many of our social problems, say the authors: poverty, crime, addiction and personal dysfunctions.
Goeglein and Osten conclude:
To restore marriage and the family and to begin to reverse the damage of the past fifty-plus years, our efforts must start with the renewal of the family and a restoration of religious faith. By solving this problem, we can then restore social capital and effectively address issues such as inner-city crime, drug addiction, income inequality, and incivility.