Tag Archives: Marriage

New study: Tennessee pre-K program provides no educational benefit over control group

This is the most thorough study that I have ever seen evaluating the effectiveness of pre-K programs. The study was done by researchers at Vanderbilt University.

The study was reported on by the well-respected but leftist Brookings Institute.

They write:

State investments in center-based school readiness programs for preschoolers (pre-K), whether targeted for poor children or universally implemented, have expanded more rapidly than evaluations of their effects. Given the current interest and continuing expansion of state funded pre-K, it is especially important to be clear about the nature of the available evidence for the effectiveness of such programs. Despite widespread claims about proven benefits from pre-K, there is actually strikingly little credible research about the effectiveness of public pre-K programs scaled for statewide implementation.

Like many states that became interested in scaling up a state funded pre-K program in the early 2000’s, voluntary pre-K (TNVPK) was introduced in Tennessee in 1996 as a way to provide academic enhancement to economically disadvantaged children. It expanded in 2005 to an $85 million-plus statewide investment serving 18,000 Tennessee income-eligible children in 935 classrooms across all 95 counties.

Launched in 2009, the TNVPK Effectiveness Study, a coordinated effort between Vanderbilt’s Peabody Research Institute and the Tennessee Department of Education, is a five-year evaluation study funded by the US Department of Education, Institute for Education Sciences. It includes the first randomized control trial of a scaled up state funded pre-K program and the first well-controlled comparison group study of the effects of program participation as children progress through elementary school..

Policymakers and proponents often cite some of the famous early studies of pre-K programs that have shown long term benefits extending into adulthood for the participating children. But those were studies of especially complex programs that are unlike scaled-up public pre-K in many ways. The Vanderbilt study is the first rigorous controlled longitudinal study to be conducted on a large-scale state-funded pre-K program.

And here is a summary of the results:

Standard score results from pre-K through 3rd grade on a composite measure that averaged the six achievement subtests are presented from baseline forward in the graph below.

As is evident, pre-K and control children started the pre-K year at virtually identical levels. The TNVPK children were substantially ahead of the control group children at the end of the pre-K year (age 5 in the graph). By the end of kindergarten (age 6 in the graph), the control children had caught up to the TNVPK children, and there were no longer significant differences between them on any achievement measures. The same result was obtained at the end of first grade using two composite achievement measures (the second created with the addition of two more WJIII subtests appropriate for the later grades). In second grade, however, the groups began to diverge with the TNVPK children scoring lower than the control children on most of the measures. The differences were significant on both achievement composite measures and on the math subtests. Differences favoring the control persisted through the end of third grade.

In terms of behavioral effects, in the spring the first grade teachers reversed the fall kindergarten teacher ratings. First grade teachers rated the TNVPK children as less well prepared for school, having poorer work skills in the classrooms, and feeling more negative about school. It is notable that these ratings preceded the downward achievement trend we found for VPK children in second and third grades. The second and third grade teachers rated the behaviors and feelings of children in the two groups as the same; there was a small positive finding for peer relations favoring the TNVPK children by third grade teachers, which did not meet traditional levels of statistical significance.

Results graph:

TNVPK data: pre-K program is in red, baseline is in blue
TNVPK data: pre-K program is in red, baseline is in blue

We are already seeing that cheap daycare in high-tax, big government provinces like Quebec cost a lot, and produce negative results. And of course Hillary Clinton is a longstanding advocate of universal pre-K. As a Senator of New York, she introduced a universal pre-K plan that would cost $10 billion over 5 years. President Barack Obama’s own Preschool for All plan would cost $75 billion over 10 years. This Vanderbilt study should cause us to question whether the policies of the secular left, pushed largely because of emotions and ideology, are worth the tens of billions of dollars they want to take from us. And if you take tens of billions of dollars out of families, then families on the margin will have to give their children to the state to raise. And that includes Christian families, who would no longer be able to afford a stay-at-home mother.

Now, taking children away from parents so that their mothers can work is seen as a worthy goal by those on the secular left. First, communally raising the children is “good” because it removes inequalities between single mothers and traditional working-husband homes. Second, making it easier for women to “go fatherless” is “good” because fathers are not to be trusted to teach their children about morality and religion. That is best left to secular government workers. Third, mothers who choose to marry good providers pay less in taxes if they choose to stay home with their kids and not work. That is “bad” because the government wants more taxes, so they can spend it on vote-buying social programs. Fourth, children who form stable bonds with their parents are less likely to become dependent on the government, meaning their allegiance cannot be bought with government handouts. That is also “bad”. Fifth, it is also “bad” that children who grow up with stay-at-home mothers are more likely to develop empathy and morality, which gives them an independent standard by which to judge the government’s actions.

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How the gay agenda changes the norms of long-term relationships

Young people seem to like gay marriage more than they like individual liberties
Young people celebrating gay rights: but can you have lasting love without self-control?

When are adultery and divorce good things?

Michael Brown comments:

Consider this scenario. A married man and father announces that he is leaving his wife and children in order to be “true to himself.” He has found another love, the most genuine love he has ever known, and he has already moved in with his new lover.

How would society react to him? —

“You, sir, are an unfaithful, disloyal adulterer. You should be ashamed of yourself, leaving your wife and kids for another woman.”

He replies, “But it’s not for another woman. It’s for another man. I’m gay and I’ve come to terms with my identity. I won’t go on with the charade any longer, and I’m proud of my decision.”

How does society react now?

“You, sir, are a courageous hero. You have set an example for others to follow, and you should be commended for your boldness and integrity.”

So, if you commit adultery and abandon your family out of heterosexual desires, you are a despicable human being. But if you do it out of homosexual desires, you are a hero and champion. You even become an international celebrity, albeit not without some controversy.

And he provides some examples. Do you doubt his story? Look what happened to this formerly-Christian entertainer.

Look:

During an appearance on ABC’s “The View” on Friday, Everyday Sunday’s Trey Pearson, who released a letter last week to fans in which he came out as a homosexual, outlined that he has left his wife after deciding to no longer fight against having feelings for men.

[…]On “The View” on Friday, Pearson suggested that he divorced his wife and moved out, as he referred to his wife of seven years as his “ex-wife,” and said that he meets with her and his two children once a week.

[…]He said he wants the Church to accept homosexuality.

“I want to see my church change. I want to see our denomination change,” Pearson said. “I want to see people to be willing to have the conversation in an open way where they are willing to listen to people’s stories.”

The musician, who is scheduled to perform at a homosexual pride event next week, said that he finds it “damaging” when ministers call homosexuality a choice.

Yay! Everyone cheer! Hurray, for adultery and divorce! He gets to go on TV and be celebrated by leftists on “The View”. We’ve changed as a society – now chastity and fidelity are out, and divorce and adultery are in.

This story does nothing to correct my bias against artists and entertainers, by the way.

New study: women seeking to have a child should start before age 32

Brain vs Heart, from: theawkwardyeti.com
Brain vs Heart, from: theawkwardyeti.com

Dina sent me this sobering piece of research from the New Scientist which is perfect for all the young feminists who have been taught in college that marriage should be put off, and women can easily get pregnant after age 40.

Excerpt:

It’s a question many people will ask themselves at some point in their lives: when should I start a family? If you know how many children you’d like, and whether or not you would consider, or could afford, IVF, a computer model can suggest when to start trying for your first child.

Happy with just one? The model recommends you get started by age 32 to have a 90 per cent chance of realising your dream without IVF. A brood of three would mean starting by age 23 to have the same chance of success. Wait until 35 and the odds are 50:50 (see “When to get started”).

The suggestions are based on averages pulled from a swathe of data so don’t give a personal prediction. And of course, things aren’t this simple in real life – if only family size and feelings about IVF were the only factors to consider when planning a family. But the idea behind the model is to help people make a decision by condensing all the information out there into an accessible form.

“We have tried to fill a missing link in the decision-making process,” says Dik Habbema at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, one of the creators of the model. “My son is 35 and many of his friends have a problem deciding when to have children because there are so many things they want to do.”

It’s a scenario that will be familiar to many; the age at which people have their first child has been creeping up over the last 40 or so years. For example, the average age at which a woman has her first child is 28 in the UK and has reached 30 in Italy, Spain and Switzerland. In the US, the birth rate for women in their 20s has hit a record low, while the figures for those over 35 have increased over the last few decades.

The decision is more pressing for women thanks to their limited supply of eggs, which steadily drop in quantity and quality with age. Female fertility is thought to start declining at 30, with a more significant fall after the age of 35.

[…]The new model incorporates data from studies that assess how fertility naturally declines with age. The team took information on natural fertility from population data collected over 300 years up to the 1970s, which includes data on 58,000 women.

I have often tried to talk to young women about the need to get their lives in gear. I advise them to work summers during high school, obtain a STEM degree in university, minimize borrowing money by going to community college for the generic prerequisites, don’t have premarital sex, get a job related to their STEM field straight out of college, pay off their debts, move out of their parents’ house, start investing from the first paycheck, marry between age 25-30, and then start having children after the first two “stabilizing” years of marriage. This is sound advice, rooted in my careful reconnaissance of the things that human beings care about and need in their old age. This advice is not bullying, it comes from reading many, many relevant papers. It comes from putting the knowledge gained from reading the papers into practice, and seeing results where appropriate.

I am giving you the numbers. Straight out of a peer-reviewed study. Don’t follow your heart. Don’t listen to your friends. Follow the science. Make your decisions within the boundaries of reality. God will not save you from foolish decisions.

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Why sexual permissiveness is not compatible with the welfare of children

A long journey through the night
A long journey through the night

Here is a striking essay from the Public Discourse. It talks about how we, as a society, have generally taken on an anything-goes approach with respect to sex. The one exception (for now) is pedophilia, which is the sexual abuse of children by adults. The essay points out that there is no moral reason for having this one exception, on secularism. The exception exists because of a sort of “ick” factor – not because we have a moral framework that makes anything right or wrong objectively. The essay argues that we are not shy about harming children in a million other ways, and lists some examples. I just want to quote a few and then I’ll comment about my own moral views around sexuality.

Quick summary of his argument:

The moral structure of pedophilia is simply this: the welfare of children is subordinate to the sexual gratification of adults.

[…]We should be thankful that the Sanduskys and Laheys are still considered monstrous. But in contemporary America that condemnation rests on sentiment and not on moral reasoning. No one can simultaneously explain why their actions were so vile and uphold the first commandment of the sexual revolution: fulfill thy desires.

[…]No, it isn’t how Sandusky and Lahey did what they did, or under what circumstances, that explains the disgust. It’s what they did—but nobody wants to acknowledge that.

The reason for that reluctance becomes clear, if we keep in mind the moral structure of pedophilia. Sexual gratification trumps. Thank goodness that for now, there aren’t many men who are sexually attracted to youngsters. In that single case, we raise the banner for the children. But in no other case.

That’s his argument.

Now, a quick excerpt:

If we altered the question, and asked not how many people have done sexually abusive things with children, but how many people have done sexual things that redounded to the suffering of children, then we might confess that the only thing that separates millions of people from Jerry Sandusky is inclination. Everything that was once considered a sexual evil and that is now winked at or cheered, everything without exception, has served to hurt children, and badly.

We might point here to divorce. Unless it is necessary to remove oneself and one’s children from physical danger and moral corruption, the old wisdom regarding divorce should hold, if children themselves have anything to say about it. Parents will say, “My children can never be happy unless I am happy,” but they should not lay that narcissistic unction to their souls. Children need parents who love them, not parents who are happy; they are too young to be asked to lay down their lives for someone else. It is not the job of the child to suffer for the parent, but the job of the parent to endure, to make the best of a poor situation, to swallow his pride, to bend her knees, for the sake of the child.

We might point to births out of wedlock. The child has a right to enter more than a little nursery decorated with presents from a baby shower. He should enter a human world, a story, a people. He should be born of a mother and a father among uncles and aunts and cousins and grandparents, stretching into the distant past, with all their interrelated histories, with his very being reflected in all those mirrors of relation, not to mention his eyes and his hair, the talents in his fingers and the cleverness in his mind. This belonging to a big and dependable world can be secured only in the context of the permanent love of his mother and father, declared by a vow before the community and before the One in whom there is no shadow of alteration.

And now my comments about this article.

So pretty much all my regular readers know that I take extremely conservative views on social issues, since I am an evangelical Protestant Christian. But I don’t just have conservative views – I am also chaste at a personal level. I am not one of these re-virgins – I have never had sex. Not once. And I don’t mean I have never had sexual intercourse only, I mean that I have never even kissed a woman on the lips. I am a radical on the issue of chastity. I don’t view chastity as depriving oneself of something good, I view it is as a thing that serious Christian men do when we want to enable and develop other capabilities. It’s my conviction that chastity enables the capability to see women as God sees them, which is a precursor to growing them up to serve him. That’s what women are for, on my view – exactly like men are for knowing and serving God. It’s my belief that once a man has premarital sex, it becomes much harder for him to view women that way.

So, I am really really really against any kind of sexual activity of any kind prior to marriage. I think that if a man wants to show affection to a woman, then sex before marriage is not the way to do that. There are other ways, and men ought to know how to speak the language of love to a woman in many different ways apart from sex, assuming that this is his goal for her. A man needs to create a context for sex before he can have it. Marriage is how a man provides a context for sex. Not just by giving a woman safety, but by specifying a shared vision which the woman agrees to support when she agrees to marriage. Men shouldn’t have intimate experiences with women who are not committed to a constructive partnership with specific goals, e.g. – birthing or adopting children in order to give them a stable, loving sane environment to grow up in. That is so rare nowadays, especially on college campuses which are inundated with sexual liberalism, thanks to radical feminism. My conviction that sex is not something that should be done before marriage emerges partly from a concern that children should have the best opportunity for that stable environment. And that’s what I want to focus on – sexual restraint as a means of providing for children and protecting children.

First, premarital sex creates a situations where abortion happens. Men and women should not engage in activities for recreational reasons that could possibility lead to the death of another human being, period. I am not one of these people who thinks “oh, poor woman who is pregnant, what a beastly man who did that to her – but she can do the right thing and keep the baby”. I think that women are equally to blame with men for even having sex before marriage – the mistake was having sex in the first place. So getting pregnant and keeping the baby is good, but preventing fatherlessness and not putting burdens on taxpayers is much, much better. People who engage in premarital sex are not only selfish, immature and irresponsible, but they are actually acting in a negligent fashion towards the child that may result from their choices. We should not make choices that put innocent children at risk. Premarital sex can be compared with driving while drunk in that regard. You might think it’s fun, but it’s not a good, moral thing to do because of the harm that may result. Saying “but I didn’t mean to” after the fact doesn’t change the harm.

Second, I’ve blogged before about many studies (like this one) that show that premarital sex reduces relationship stability, duration, and quality. Another study I blogged about showed that the number of sexual partners that a man or woman has before marriage directly affects the probability that the relationship will provide a stable environment for raising children. So one of my reasons for being chaste is to maximize the probability of giving my future children that stable environment. Another reason to be chaste is to give my future wife that gift of fidelity. When a man has proven that he has the ability to restrain himself with his wife during the courtship, that is a signal to her that he is good at self-control. The ability to court without premarital sex shows her that he is able to think about her as a person, and that he is able to evaluate her objectively for the purpose of filling the roles of wife and mother. And that this is, in fact, his whole purpose for her. A purpose that will survive the decline of her appearance and youth. Security is another gift that a chaste man gives his wife, so that she can age confidently.

Thirdly, I have in the past blogged about research on gay unions showing how various factors that are more probable in gay relationships, (e.g. – elevated rates of domestic violence, low relationship stability, drug abuse, high rates of promiscuity, etc.), undermine the stability of the environment in which children grow up. More here. Dr. Ryan Anderson has argued that the norms present in gay relationships will undermine the norms of traditional marriage, (permanence, sexual exclusivity, etc.), if marriage is redefined to eliminate the gender requirement. I think we need to keep the traditional definition of marriage because it’s better for children if we do (and there are other reasons to prefer natural marriage, as I’ve written about before).

I think I’ve said enough here to show that very often when it comes to sexual activity what is driving my conservative views is concern for others. Concern not just for the future children, but for the future wife. And not just for them, but for society as a whole, who would have to pay the social costs of things like divorce, and the social costs of children of divorce, etc. And not just for society, but also for God, who intends sexuality for a very specific purpose – it is a form of communication for two people who have been bonded to each other for life. Marriage has to count for God and achieve his goals. One of those goals is raising up children well for his sake. And adults need to control themselves in order to provide children with what they need.

New study: father absence is a strong predictor of depression for young girls

Does government provide incentives for people to get married?
If you want your children to grow up happy, commit yourself to marriage

The study is here on PubMed.

And here’s an article about it posted at The Family in America, a public policy journal.

Excerpt:

Who has benefitted from the war radical feminists have waged against marriage? Certainly not young women. A very large new Canadian study concludes that one of the strongest predictors of depression among young women is the loss of a biological parent. And it is the easy divorces that feminists have pushed for that have typically occasioned such a loss.

Conducted by researchers at the University of Northern British Columbia, this new study isolates the factors predicting depression among Canadians ages 16 to 20. The researchers limn these factors by scrutinizing data collected between 1994 and 2007 from a nationally representative sample of 1,715 individuals tracked during this 13-year period.

Predictably, the researchers adduce evidence that such things as parental rejection and childhood anxiety predict depression between a young person’s 16th birthday and his or her 21st.  But gender makes a difference: consistent with other inquiries, this study finds that “girls reported more [depression] than boys.” However, not all girls are equally vulnerable: the data reveal that “The loss of a parent by the ages of 4 to 8 years predicted depression at ages 16 to 20 years for girls [p = 0.008] but not for boys.”

Of course, a girl can lose a parent through death. But the researchers realize that such tragedy occurs far less often than the trauma of parental divorce. Consequently, they know how to interpret parental loss as a predictor of girls’ depression at the threshold between adolescence and young adulthood. This is a finding, they realize, that fits hand-in-glove with the results of a 2008 study establishing that “the effects of parental divorce . . . differ between genders in respect to the development of depression with risk increasing for girls but not for boys.” They further realize that their study harmonizes with a 1997 study concluding that “young women whose parents had divorced reported higher levels of depression compared to young men from divorced families.”

Given the paralyzing effects of depression as “a leading cause of disability worldwide,” the researchers hope their study will lead to “targeted, specific and personalized intervention” that will curb such depression. More particularly, they hope that “girls may benefit from interventions designed to address parental loss due to death, divorce, and other causes.”

But since nothing takes a parent away from a daughter more often in the 21st century than does parental divorce, it is very clear that the kind of intervention girls most need is the kind that will keep their parents together. Just how quickly that intervention comes will depend heavily on how much reality can puncture feminist ideology.

This study makes me think of the problems that we have these days getting married and staying married. I think that there are three kinds of challenges. The first challenge is ideology, e.g. – radical feminism. The second challenge is cultural, e.g. – the hook-up culture on campus. The third challenge is political, e.g. – no-fault divorce. It seems likes the odds are really stacked against marriage-minded people.

Most people like the idea of having someone of the opposite sex commit to them for life. I write a lot about what people should be looking for in a mate. Factors that predict a person’s ability to commit, what their worldview should be, etc. But we also have to remember that we have to be turning ourselves into people who are suited to a lifetime commitment, involving self-denial and self-sacrifice.

A lot of people seem to think that if they meet the right person – the person who makes them feel good – then they won’t have to do any self-denying or any self-sacrificing. But that’s not true. Feelings change. It’s possible for two serial killers to feel good about each other, and to having things in common, but marriage isn’t about whether you “like” the other person and whether they “like” you. Marriage works when you have two people who are comfortable making commitments. Two people who are comfortable with responsibilities, expectations and obligations.

The point I am trying to make here is that not only must we be looking for someone who can be faithful, loyal, commitment through thick and thin, but we must also prepare to become a person like that. If we make choices for our own happiness every day – fun and thrills – then we are not making ourselves into the kind of people who take responsibility and make commitments.

The strange thing is that those who choose fun over and over and over again seem to make the worst decisions when it comes to choosing mates. Of course it’s easier to pick someone who is not too moral and not too religious. Then they won’t be able to judge you. They’ll just let you do whatever you want and never shame you for anything.

The problem is that marriage works best when two people are comfortable with moral obligations to others. You have to be someone who is comfortable with obligations over the long term. And you have to choose someone who has a strong sense of morality, otherwise they won’t honor their moral obligations to others. Commitment means doing what is right regardless of how you feel about it, It means giving up on the pursuit of fun, in order to build something strong that will take you into your old age.