I saw a very good article at the Heritage Foundation web site about the importance of fathers for children. The author Virginia Allen listed out some of the benefits that fathers provide to children:
Studies have found that children raised without a father are:
- At a higher risk of having behavioral problems.
- Four times more likely to live in poverty.
- More likely to be incarcerated in their lifetime.
- Twice as likely to never graduate high school.
- At a seven times higher risk of teen pregnancy.
- More vulnerable to abuse and neglect.
- More likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
- Twice as likely to be obese.
From education to personal health to career success, children who lack a father find themselves at a disadvantage to their peers raised in a two-parent household.
I was looking for a good analysis of why there’s been a decline of marriage and fatherhood, and I found an article by Joe Carter on The Gospel Coalition, of all places. By looking at marriage rates and historical events that changed the marriage rate, he was able to identify the cause of the decline of marriage – and fatherhood.
I’ll spare you the statistical analysis, which is excellent, and give you the conclusion – although you can guess it from the graph above:
Now that we’ve explored the data, what year should we use as the marker for the beginning of the decline of marriage in the United States? I would argue for 1985, the last year that the marriage rate topped 10 percent.
[…]What changed in 1985 that could have led to the decline in marriage? There are likely numerous factors—which we’ll examine in future articles—but one stands out in particular: By 1985, all states (except for New York) had enacted no-fault divorce legislation.
The most helpful book I know of about no-fault divorce is “Taken Into Custody”, by Dr. Stephen Baskerville. He wrote a column for Crisis magazine that summarizes some of his ideas.
Feminists were drafting no-fault divorce laws in the 1940s, which the National Association of Women Lawyers now describes as “the greatest project NAWL has ever undertaken.”
The result effectively abolished marriage as a legal contract. Today it is not possible to form a binding agreement to create a family.
The new laws did not stop at removing the requirement of citing grounds for a divorce, to allow divorce by mutual consent, as deceptively advertised at the time. Instead they created unilateral and involuntary divorce, so that one spouse may dissolve a marriage without any agreement or fault by the other.
Here’s what divorce does to the spouse who is the victim of the unilateral “no-fault” divorce:
Though marriage is a civil matter, the logic quickly extended into the criminal, including a presumption of guilt against the involuntarily divorced spouse (“defendant”). Yet formal due process protections of criminal proceedings did not apply, so forcibly divorced spouses became quasi-criminals not for recognized criminal acts but for failing or refusing to cooperate with the divorce by continuing to claim the protections and prerogatives of family life: living in the common home, possessing the common property, or—most vexing of all—parenting the common children.
Following from this are the horrendous civil liberties violations and flagrant invasions of family and individual privacy that are now routine in family courts. A personalized criminal code is legislated by the judge around the forcibly divorced spouse, controlling their association with their children, movements, and finances. Unauthorized contact with their children can be punished with arrest. Involuntarily divorced parents are arrested for running into their children in public, making unauthorized telephone calls, and sending unauthorized birthday cards.
In my conversations with men, no-fault divorce laws, and anti-male divorce courts are the main reasons given for why they do not pursue marriage and fatherhood. Men do not want to be coerced in a marriage with the threat of divorce by an unhappy wife. Men do not want to be subject to the government in so many areas of their lives if the wife does carry out the threat. They especially don’t want to be separated from their children. One my secular male friends told me that he would not marry unless the woman had evidence in her past of hating radical feminism and no-fault divorce. This was the main criteria. He actually was able to find a woman who was a men’s rights activist who hated divorce. But that was the only way he would marry.
Statistically speaking, the wife is more likely to initiate divorce than the husband. Women initiate 70% of divorces, the majority of those just because she is “unhappy”. I think this is because women get into marriage based on their feelings, and they think that it is the husband’s job to make them feel good. They see their happiness as the primary goal of the marriage, and see a marriage that does not make them happy as a marriage that needs to be ended. Their view of commitment really means “I’ll commit so long as it makes me feel good”. None of this is particularly appealing to men, who take marriage vows to mean what they say, and think that the commitment isn’t conditional on being happy. (Note: if you’re husband doesn’t have this view of marriage, then why did you choose him out of all the other men in the world?)
Are we going to repeal no-fault divorce, then?
My experiences speaking with divorced Christian women is that they married primarily based on first impressions and emotional responses. No-fault divorce was seen as a boon to women who had married the wrong men by following their hearts. It’s an interesting question to ask whether women really would want no-fault repealed. It would mean that they would have to get serious about who they marry. They would have to think about what a man does in a marriage. They would have to think about what men want out of a marriage. And they would have to say no to their feelings, both in choosing a man, and in keeping the man after the wedding.
I’ve been told by women that the rapid giving of sex is a way to get attention from a man without having to be respectful of him. Are women willing to stop using sex as a tool to attract the wrong men, and start developing their skills as wives and mothers in order to attract the right men? Are women willing to stop seeing relationships as “fun and thrills”, and get serious about pursuing men who have marriage and children as the goal? Are wives willing to give a man what he needs in the marriage: sex, respect and obedience? Are they willing to give up the threat of divorce in the home and learn to argue rationally and compromise?
If women aren’t willing to demand the repeal of no-fault divorce laws and get serious about men and marriage, then what’s the point of complaining that men don’t want to marry and become fathers? If you’re not willing to fix the root cause of the problem, then don’t complain about the problem.