Friday, June 18, 2010

Family Values

Robert Rector, a Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has written a paper which reviews a number of studies with some interesting findings. Read it for yourself. (I've found the link doesn't work, I suck at them - here's the URL -

But, the main scientific conclusion* is that factoring out race, education and income, two parent households have kids with less problems than do kids in a one parent household. Put differently, black, white or Hispanic, high or low income, high or no education, a couple puts out a better kid than does a single parent.

Rector doesn’t talk about gay households; rather, he assumes single parent households are led by the mother (which is probably mostly the case) and that the presence of the father in the home is the catalyst for well adjusted kids not living in poverty.

If there’s a negative difference in outcome if the two resident parents are gay, it would seem to me to be the first and only valid argument against gay marriage. But, and I really like this but, if there is no difference (and I'll bet there isn't) in outcome, as one of the main purposes of marriage, according to those opposing gay marriage, is to provide stable environments for children, shouldn’t gay marriage be promoted along side traditional heterosexual marriage?

2012 Republican slogan:  The Party of Family Values, Two Parents, Straight or Gay, for Every Kid

*Being with the Heritage Foundation, Mr. Rector concludes without much evidence or analysis that the problem is caused by liberals, forgetting that the Nixon, Ford, Reagan, GHW Bush and GW Bush administrations ran the country for 28 of the last 40 years.


Big Mark 243 said...

Much food for thought. Personally, I am sympathetic to homosexuals and find that it is a matter of civil law not religous law to decide on gay marriage.

This really isn't rocket science. Children of couples in the same house have been doing better than kids from single parents only forever. There have been studies showing that even in divorce, kids who have both parents involved in their lives, do better. Same deal with broken homes.

The coincidence that the country has been ran by conservative Presidents for much of the last half century is the lack of empathy from those who follow or say they follow conservative dogma.

The Exception said...

Dave –
I have read these studies… and I am a single parent. The question I have is about the involvement of both parents. If the parents (either) are abusive in any way… or if one is more absent then present… or more self centered than involved…???
I always wonder if we are comparing single parent households and two parent households with the same variables? IN other words, economic status, abuse, involvement… that sort of thing? I am not debating that two parent houses are ideal, but I wonder if the ideal is realistic… and if single parent kids are at risk… why keep studying it and why not figure out how to make the risk less as they are not going away?

But the real question – if all variables are held consistent and the only difference is two parents VS one… is that risk still presence? Is it better to have a two parent house in which one parent is abusive etc… or is the risk then less for the child to be raised in a single parent house?

Dave said...

Exception, I stayed away from the reasons for a single parent home. The author (and I didn't read the underlying studies) talked about single parents that were always single parents: unwed mothers as teens or in their twenties and thirties and the reasons they weren't married. His social point, I think was that we as a society should be working to wait to have children until they had gotten the education, the job and so on. I can't argue with that.

From my point of view, I'm not married and I don't have kids, if one of the parents is harming the kids and it isn't going to stop, then the other parent, and the kids are better off without the bad parent. But, I have no proof of that. Anecdotally, I've seen examples of good and bad results for kids going both ways.

Mark, my riff on the GOP was mostly ire at the author's unsupported attack on "liberals" having caused single parent homes and currently doing nothing to promote marriage. The current government may not be doing enough though I think it has a few other things on its plate. I don't remember a GOP even minor initative to change the circumstances of the "poor" so that they realize that having kids is a two person job.

Also, interestingly, the author says that welfare of kids is increased by two parents regardless of race, income or education - why is he only pushing for education on this for the poor? What's up with leaving white, well to do, educated people who make bad choices alone?

Looks like I blew a post in a comment.

Anonymous said...

For a time I was in a home with my mother, grandfather, aunt, and two cousins. (Dad was away at college.) I'm not sure how that would have fit into the study; technically there was just one "parent," but I had five adults caring for me and looking out for me.

I think what they're really saying is that kids need a family.

Dave said...

Thomas, you probably grew up like me - lots of adult relatives, there to support and to give you hell when you screwed up. Family, I think you are right.

Debo Blue said...

Great article. Got my emotions all up.

Debo Blue said...

I am the product of a two parent, conservative Christian household. My sister was a Black single mother rearing three girls in a low-income/welfare-enabled household. Each of the three girls graduated college.

It takes a village, a whole lot of prayer and the courage to slap around a few kids (no matter how much you hate to do it).

Kim said...

And what about the study that shows children raised by lesbians
have fewer behavioral problems?