Tag Archives: Child-bearing

New study: adopted kids struggle, even with well-educated, wealthy parents

I’ll explain why I am posting this below, but for now, let’s take a look at the study, which is discussed at Family Studies. (H/T Brad Wilcox tweet)

Excerpt:

To expand what we know about adopted students, for this Institute for Family Studies research brief, I carried out a fresh analysis of data from a large longitudinal study of 19,000 kindergarten students that was conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics beginning in 1998.

[…]Kindergarten and first-grade teachers were asked to rate the classroom behavior of children in the ECLS-K sample—how well they got along with other children in a group situation. In both the fall of kindergarten and the spring of first grade, adopted children were more likely than biological ones to be reported to get angry easily and often argue or fight with other students.

Here’s the first chart:

Adopted kids struggle in school
Adopted kids more likely to engage in problem behaviors

And more results:

Children in the ECLS-K were also rated by their teachers on how well they paid attention in class, whether they seemed eager to learn new things, and whether they persisted at challenging learning tasks. Scores on these measures have proven to be predictive of later academic performance and career success beyond elementary school.5 Adopted children were rated less highly with respect to such positive approaches to learning than were children being raised by both birth parents.

Here’s the second chart:

Adopted kids struggle to pay attention in class
Adopted kids struggle to pay attention in class

And even more results:

As the participating children began kindergarten, the ECLS-K assessed their pre-reading skills, such as recognizing letters by name, associating sounds with letters, identifying simple words by sight.

Here’s the third chart:

Adopted kids struggle with reading skills
Adopted kids struggle with reading skills

And now math results:

In the fall of their kindergarten year, the ECLS-K assessed children’s pre-arithmetic skills like counting by rote, recognizing written numerals, and understanding greater, lesser, and equal relationships.

Here’s the fourth chart:

Adopted kids struggle with math skills
Adopted kids struggle with math skills

The article concludes:

Attachment theory holds that a warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with at least one adult, usually the mother, is essential for the mental health of infants and young children. Children who do not develop a stable and secure bond during early childhood, or have the bond disrupted, are subject to both short-term distress reactions and longer-term abnormalities in their feelings and behavior toward other people. Not having a stable maternal bond is apt to produce long-lasting deficits in the child’s social development, deficiencies that are not easily remedied by a new home environment, no matter how favorable.

Some adopted children experienced neglect, abuse, or other stressful events prior to their adoption. According to traumatic stress theory, the likelihood of long-term emotional scars depends on the intensity and duration of the stress. Severe or prolonged early stress can have long-lasting effects on a child’s development, effects that a supportive adoptive family may only partly ameliorate.

So what do I want to say about this? I want to warn young women, especially young Christian women, that children work best when grown-ups plan their lives in such a way that they can provide for what the children need, at the time they need it. And if you miss the window of opportunity to have your own kids and raise them yourself, then you can’t just fix it at the last minute with ad hoc alternatives.

But for some reason, I get a lot of kickback from young women when I tell them what studies say about things like marriage, premarital sex, cohabitation, infertility, day care, and on and on and on. The Christian women in particular dismiss all the facts with stuff like:

God is leading me to choose fun and thrills now. That’s what my feelings say (and all my friends and family tell me that my feelings are God speaking to me). Tingles and peer-approval rationalize my choice to delay marriage and child-bearing. Who cares about stuff evidence? I don’t like to hear about constraints and deadlines. So I’ll just keep up this plan to run up debts, go on missionary trips, and have fun traveling till I’m 90 years old. God always calls people to do what feels good. I’m going on an adventure! And it will be easy to find a good husband and raise happy and effective kids later – whenever I feel like it. Er, I mean when God leads me to feel like it. Yeah.

So even though all of these studies show the need for timings, pre-conditions, best practices, and so on, that can all be dismissed because the feelings are God speaking to her, and God can somehow magically make all the data not apply to her. One of my married friends once wrote to a young, single fun-seeking feminist telling her about the risks of delaying marriage and child-bearing for too long, and the fun-seeker came back to me dismissing the whole letter because “I don’t like the feeling that I am being constrained”. So, the advice of old Christian women (Titus 2:4) can be dismissed because the young adventurous feminist didn’t like the feeling of being confronted by reality by someone who had more wisdom and experience than she did.

What young children need is their mom, and a Dad who can provide for her to stay home during the crucial first 5 years of their lives. That is more important than pursuing fun and thrills, then grabbing for children as if they were handbags at the last second after natural child-bearing becomes impossible. The right thing to do is to use your 20s preparing financially and otherwise to have kids when you are young, and to be financially set up to stay home with them during the critical years. Choosing a man who can provide, and who understands the best practices for having and raising children is vital, if you want your children to be effective and influential for Christ and his kingdom.

I do think that if a couple is intentionally adopting because they want the challenge and want to help a child who really needs it, then it’s praiseworthy to do that. I just don’t want someone who isn’t ready for the challenge thinking that adoption is the same, so they can delay marriage and children.I know that I am lazy, and I always want to do things the easy way. E.g. – I buy new cars, not used cars. I will buy hand-fed birds, not rescue birds. I would buy a new house, not a fixer-upper. I’m just not cut out for doing things that are hard. I have no ability to struggle through when there is resistance. When I face rejection or resistance to trying to grow or lead someone, I just give up. I think what I was saying to young women was – don’t delay marriage and child-bearing, you’ll get better results with less work.

Related posts

Study: fathers are important for the development of children’s brains

Fathers and children
Fathers and children

The study was reported in the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

Dr. Braun’s group found that at 21 days, the fatherless animals had less dense dendritic spines compared to animals raised by both parents, though they “caught up” by day 90. However, the length of some types of dendrites was significantly shorter in some parts of the brain, even in adulthood, in fatherless animals.

“It just shows that parents are leaving footprints on the brain of their kids,” says Dr. Braun, 54 years old.

The neuronal differences were observed in a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is related to emotional responses and fear, and the orbitofrontal cortex, or OFC, the brain’s decision-making center.

[…]The balance between these two brain parts is critical to normal emotional and cognitive functioning, according to Dr. Braun. If the OFC isn’t active, the amygdala “goes crazy, like a horse without a rider,” she says. In the case of the fatherless pups, there were fewer dendritic spines in the OFC, while the dendrite trees in the amygdala grew more and longer branches.

A preliminary analysis of the degus’ behavior showed that fatherless animals seemed to have a lack of impulse control, Dr. Braun says. And, when they played with siblings, they engaged in more play-fighting or aggressive behavior.

In a separate study in Dr. Braun’s lab conducted by post-doctoral researcher Joerg Bock, degu pups were removed from their caregivers for one hour a day. Just this small amount of stress leads the pups to exhibit more hyperactive behaviors and less focused attention, compared to those who aren’t separated, Dr. Braun says. They also exhibit changes in their brain.

The basic wiring between the brain regions in the degus is the same as in humans, and the nerve cells are identical in their function. “So on that level we can assume that what happens in the animal’s brain when it’s raised in an impoverished environment … should be very similar to what happens in our children’s brain,” Dr. Braun says.

Read the whole thing.

I think this is important because we hear so much today that marriage can be redefined, that having one of each parent doesn’t matter, that live-in boyfriends and stepfathers have the same motivation to care for a woman’s children as the biological father does. We don’t want to make judgments, even if setting boundaries is better for children. A child’s well-being is enormously affected by the woman’s choice of biological father.  You can’t have it both ways – either we are going to judge women who choose men who don’t have the desire to commit to marriage, and do the father role, OR we are going to take things away from children by encouraging women to choose men based on “feelings” instead of abilities. Lowering moral standards and removing moral obligations hurts children. It sounds so nice when we tell women, “you can do whatever you feel like, and just forget about responsibilities, expectations and obligations”, but letting women be guided by their feelings harms children. My stock broker makes me feel uncomfortable because he knows more than I do, and does not respect my opinion. But I pay him to make investment decisions for me. I mustn’t let my pride get in the way of letting him do his job – a job he is more qualified than I am to do. Let him do his job.

Here’s a related question: Are biological fathers or unrelated men more dangerous for children?

This article from the Weekly Standard answers the question.

Excerpt:

A March 1996 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics contains some interesting findings that indicate just how widespread the problem may be. In a nationally representative survey of state prisoners jailed for assaults against or murders of children, fully one-half of respondents reported the victim was a friend, acquaintance, or relative other than offspring. (All but 3 percent of those who committed violent crimes against children were men.) A close relationship between victim and victimizer is also suggested by the fact that three-quarters of all the crimes occurred in either the perpetrator’s home or the victim’s.

A 1994 paper published in the Journal of Comparative Family Studies looked at 32,000 documented cases of child abuse. Of the victims, only 28 percent lived with both biological parents (far fewer than the 68 percent of all children who live with both parents); 44 percent lived with their mother only (as do 25 percent of all children); and 18 percent lived with their mother and an unrelated adult (double the 9 percent of all children who live with their mother and an unrelated adult).

These findings mirror a 1993 British study by the Family Education Trust, which meticulously explored the relationship between family structure and child abuse. Using data on documented cases of abuse in Britain between 1982 and 1988, the report found a high correlation between child abuse and the marital status of the parents.

Specifically, the British study found that the incidence of abuse was an astounding 33 times higher in homes where the mother was cohabiting with an unrelated boyfriend than in stable nuclear families. Even when the boyfriend was the children’s biological father, the chances of abuse were twice as high.

These findings are consonant with those published a year earlier by Leslie Margolin of the University of Iowa in the journal Child Abuse and Neglect. Prof. Margolin found that boyfriends were 27 times more likely than natural parents to abuse a child. The next-riskiest group, siblings, were only twice as likely as parents to abuse a child.

More recently, a report by Dr. Michael Stiffman presented at the latest meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in October, studied the 175 Missouri children under the age of 5 who were murdered between 1992 and 1994. It found that the risk of a child’s dying at the hands of an adult living in the child’s own household was eight times higher if the adult was biologically unrelated.

The Heritage Foundation’s Patrick Fagan discovered that the number of child-abuse cases appeared to rise in the 1980s along with the general societal acceptance of cohabitation before, or instead of, marriage. That runs counter to the radical-feminist view, which holds that marriage is an oppressive male institution of which violence is an integral feature. If that were true, then child abuse and domestic violence should have decreased along with the rise in cohabitation.

Heritage also found that in the case of very poor children (those in households earning less than $ 15,000 per year), 75 percent lived in a household where the biological father was absent. And 50 percent of adults with less than a high-school education lived in cohabitation arrangements. “This mix — poverty, lack of education, children, and cohabitation — is an incubator for violence,” Fagan says.

Why, then, do we ignore the problem? Fagan has a theory: “It is extremely politically incorrect to suggest that living together might not be the best living arrangement.”

The moral of the story is that it is a lot safer for children if we promote marriage as a way of attaching mothers and fathers to their children. Fathers who have a biological connection to children are a lot less likely to harm them. We should probably be teaching women to choose men who have a certain tenderness towards people they mentor or nurture, as well. These things are not free, you have to persuade women to value the male tendency to want to lead / guide / mentor. A lot of social problems like child poverty, promiscuity and violence cannot be solved by replacing a father with a check from the government. We need to support fathers by empowering them in their traditional roles. Let the men lead. Swallow your feminist instincts, and prefer men who take seriously their role of leading others upward.

Scientists discover how fathers improve brain development of children

Story from the Wall Street Journal. (H/T Andrew)

Excerpt:

Dr. Braun’s group found that at 21 days, the fatherless animals had less dense dendritic spines compared to animals raised by both parents, though they “caught up” by day 90. However, the length of some types of dendrites was significantly shorter in some parts of the brain, even in adulthood, in fatherless animals.

“It just shows that parents are leaving footprints on the brain of their kids,” says Dr. Braun, 54 years old.

The neuronal differences were observed in a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is related to emotional responses and fear, and the orbitofrontal cortex, or OFC, the brain’s decision-making center.

[…]The balance between these two brain parts is critical to normal emotional and cognitive functioning, according to Dr. Braun. If the OFC isn’t active, the amygdala “goes crazy, like a horse without a rider,” she says. In the case of the fatherless pups, there were fewer dendritic spines in the OFC, while the dendrite trees in the amygdala grew more and longer branches.

A preliminary analysis of the degus’ behavior showed that fatherless animals seemed to have a lack of impulse control, Dr. Braun says. And, when they played with siblings, they engaged in more play-fighting or aggressive behavior.

In a separate study in Dr. Braun’s lab conducted by post-doctoral researcher Joerg Bock, degu pups were removed from their caregivers for one hour a day. Just this small amount of stress leads the pups to exhibit more hyperactive behaviors and less focused attention, compared to those who aren’t separated, Dr. Braun says. They also exhibit changes in their brain.

The basic wiring between the brain regions in the degus is the same as in humans, and the nerve cells are identical in their function. “So on that level we can assume that what happens in the animal’s brain when it’s raised in an impoverished environment … should be very similar to what happens in our children’s brain,” Dr. Braun says.

Read the whole thing.

Related posts

Twenty-one reasons why marriage matters

From the National Marriage Coalition in New Zealand. (H/T Jennifer Roback Morse)

Summary:

FAMILY

1. Marriage increases the likelihood that fathers have good relationships with their children
2. Cohabitation is not the functional equivalent of marriage
3. Growing up outside an intact marriage increases the likelihood that children themselves divorce or become unwed parents
4. Marriage is a virtually universal human institution.

ECONOMICS

5. Divorce and unmarried childbearing increase poverty for both children and mothers
6. Married couples seem to build more wealth on average than singles or cohabiting couples
7. Married men earn more money than do single men with similar education and job histories
8. Parental divorce (or failure to marry) appears to increase children’s risk of school failure
9. Parental divorce reduces the likelihood that children will graduate from college and achieve high-status jobs

PHYSICAL HEALTH AND LONGEVITY

10.Children who live with their own two married parents enjoy better physical health, on average, than do children in other family forms
11.Parental marriage is associated with a sharply lower risk of infant mortality
12.Marriage is associated with reduced rates of alcohol and substance abuse for both adults and teens
13.Married people, especially married men, have longer life expectancies than do otherwise similar singles
14.Marriage is associated with better health and lower rates of injury, illness, and disability for both men and women

MENTAL HEALTH AND EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING

15.Children whose parents divorce have higher rates of psychological distress and mental illness
16.Divorce appears significantly to increase the risk of suicide
17.Married mothers have lower rates of depression than do single or cohabiting mothers

CRIME AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

18.Boys raised in single-parent families are more likely to engage in delinquent and criminal behaviour
19.Marriage appear to reduce the risk that adults will be either perpetrators or victims of crime
20.Married women appear to have a lower risk of experiencing domestic violence than do cohabiting or dating women
21.A child who is not living with his or her own two married parents is at greater risk of child abuse

This is fun to read! You can learn to defend marriage, even if you favor lifelong chastity over marriage like I do.

The full PDF is here.