The American family is in decline. But sometimes it is hard to see how far we have come because the changes are often subtle and incremental. Each generation comes into the world already taking as a baseline changes that occurred before they arrived. Perhaps the best way to document the decline of the family is to compare where we are today to where we were in 1960.
Back then more than nine out of ten U.S. households with children had both a father and a mother who were married. Married parents of children wasn’t just the majority, it was the overwhelming norm. Today married couples can only be found in about two-thirds of U.S. households with kids.
During the decades from 1960 to now, we have discovered through various research studies that children need both a father and a mother. Dr. Patrick Fagan working first at the Heritage Foundation and now at the Family Research Council has put together massive databases of studies done by hundreds of researchers on marriage. They conclude what the Bible has taught for millennia. Children need a father and a mother.
Out of wedlock births is one of the reasons children are growing up without two parents. In a column on The Great Society programs, Pat Buchanan gives these sobering statistics. “Half of all children born to women under 30 in America now are illegitimate. Three in 10 white children are born out of wedlock, as are 53 percent of Hispanic babies and 73 percent of black babies.”
Divorce is another reason for family decline. As I have discussed in previous commentaries, cohabitation increases the likelihood of future divorce. Here again we can see a remarkable change in attitudes. Charles Murray, in his book, The State of White America, reminds us of a survey of women in the 1960s. It asked, “In your opinion, do you think it is all right for a woman to have sexual relations before marriage with a man she knows she is going to marry?” Eighty-six percent of the women said no.
It is easy to see that the American family is in decline. All we have to do is look back a few decades.