The web (including Marvin Olasky's online column on Monday) is buzzing about a recent New York Times article that expounds on the shameful trend of having children without the benefit of marriage to the children's father. Read it, but you'll find nothing new or profound there. The article might evoke anger at the excuse-making (one of which Heather Mac Donald at National Review lays bare), and it'll confirm what most know about human nature.
Some parents sacrifice and put their children's needs before their own. They bring these tiny, helpless, and dependent human beings into the world, and it's up to us, the adults, to do what's best for them. And what's best for them is an intact family. Generally, a stable family provides the best chance for positive life outcomes for these impressionable and vulnerable people.
Our responsibility begins when we make the decision to have sex, married or unmarried, birth control or no birth control. The decision to perform the act means we have, in a sense, planned a pregnancy. Some people might talk themselves into believing the children will be OK without the love and support of both their parents, but honest people admit otherwise.
Children living with their married, biological parents generally are better off in every area of their lives than children from unstable families. Homes in which children grow up without a resident, biological father tend to be inherently unstable, regardless of what feminists and other apologists say.
The resident, biological father is unlike any other kind of father. He tends to be more emotionally and financially invested in his child than the biological father who lives elsewhere and pays a portion of his salary in child support. The non-resident father might become stepfather to another man's children and/or create another set of children who get to live with him. Do adults ever stop and think about how this affects the first set of children?
Simply living together without the benefit of marriage doesn't cut it. The "piece of paper" matters. Couples in "shacked up" households are less committed to fidelity, and the union is less secure. According to a recent study by the National Marriage Project, children in cohabitating households are at least three times more likely to be emotionally, physically, and sexually abused than children living with married, biological parents. The "complex household," in which children and adults live with half-siblings, stepsiblings, stepparents, and stepchildren, is no Brady Bunch. These children are more likely to report behavioral and health problems and poor relationships with their parents, and perform poorly in school.
The surest way to improve a child's well-being is for his parents to be married to each other, regardless of household income. Boys especially need married, resident fathers to serve as models of how to be married, resident fathers themselves. Although it should go without saying that marriage isn't a panacea or that some children are better off far away from abusive biological fathers, it must be said. But anecdotes and exceptions don't change the general rule.