By Michael F. Haverluck
But a new study shows the opposite – family cohesion, is the No. 1 determinant of a healthy home and a healthy society.
When asked about the message from the study, which showed only 45 percent of 15-17-year-old teens in America live with both married parents, Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin said such cohesion is as important in the home as it is on the battlefield.
“Family intactness, when measured, always has a beneficial influence on U.S. social policy outcomes,” said Boykin, who serves as Family Research Council‘s executive vice president.
Boykin, who commanded all the Army’s Green Berets, notes that whether a family stays together or not is the greatest predictor of teen pregnancy, school performance, income and reliance on the government.
The most revealing gauge of the health of the American family was recently released in the third annual “Index of Family Belonging and Rejection” by FRC’s Marriage and Religious Research Institute. It gives a transparent look at which cities and states do the best and worst job at keeping their families together. A new offshoot of the study, called the “U.S. Social Policy: Dependence on the Family,” gives a sobering look at how broken homes are the main contributor to destructive teen behaviors that have harmful effects on themselves and society.
In Obama’s address, he suggested preschool for all to counter negative youth trends – many of which are highlighted in the studies. But FRC President Tony Perkins argues that more school and more federal money cannot remedy problems that begin and end inside the home.
“President Obama has again endorsed a government solution to a spiritual and familial problem,” Perkins points out. “President Obama and his big government supporters think that starting school at a younger age will help solve society’s problems. But a study of the federal preschool program Head Start shows that for all the money spent on the program, it had little effect on educational outcomes after preschool concluded.”
Boykin, who served four years as the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense and Intelligence, concurs, indicating that America should know better than to embrace costly government intervention to solve its problems.
“We already have Head Start for lower income children,” the 36-year Army veteran asserts, insisting that taking children out of their homes at an earlier age is not the solution, but rather adds to the problem.
“If the U.S. ‘universalizes’ these programs, we know what will happen. Mothers with higher incomes see their kids’ IQs drop if they use more daycare … Moms, who are otherwise comparable locally, can see better labor markets and hence choose work over time with baby. Those moms are seen later in life to have lower-functioning children.”
According to Dr. Henry Potrykus, who co-authored MARRI’s research, schooling should no longer be considered as the foremost gauge to monitor the condition of American society.
“The analysis of this year’s Index of Family Belonging showed that the social welfare of our nation is determined not just by its educational attainment, but in equal measure by how intact or broken children’s families are,” Potrykus told WND. “Across the United States, areas with high Index scores have lower female risk factors, such as less teenage out-of-wedlock birth, lower welfare dependency and higher education and income generation.”
And what cities registered the highest when it comes to family intactness? Only three of America’s 45 largest cities had more than 50 percent of households with 15- to 17-year-olds living in them who grew up with both married parents. They are San Jose, Calif. (56 percent), Seattle, Wash. (54 percent) and San Francisco, Calif. (53 percent). And only an additional four cities are at or above the nation’s mean of 45 percent: Fort Worth, Texas (48 percent), Mesa, Ariz. (47 percent), Austin, Texas (46 percent) and Virginia Beach, Va. (45 percent).
And the worst in the group?
“In the five cities scoring lowest on Family Belonging, fewer than two in 10 teenagers have been raised by both parents,” MARRI reports. “These cities were Cleveland, Ohio (15 percent), Baltimore, Md. (16 percent), Washington, D.C. (17 percent), Memphis, Tenn. (17 percent) and Detroit, Mich. (18 percent).”
Generally speaking, major urban areas aren’t exactly kid-friendly.
“In the average large city, just over three in 10 teenagers have grown up with both married parents (36 percent) – significantly lower than the national average Family Belonging Index,” the research states.
Other than the surprises of predominantly liberal cities like Seattle and San Francisco being on the top of the index for intact families, what does Potrykus consider to be the biggest shocker about the findings?
“Across all census regions (not just cities), once family intactness, education, and other demographic factors are taken into account, an area’s racial composition matters little for social policy outcomes,” Potrykus explains.
“For example, Hispanics in an area show a positive influence on male employment and show no influence on an area’s food stamp recipiency levels once these other more fundamental social variables are factored in.”
The Index of Family Belonging for the states also calculates the percentage of 15- to 17-year-olds who have grown up with both married parents. Only 11 states weigh in at more than 50 percent: Utah (60 percent), Minnesota and North Dakota at 57 percent, Nebraska (54 percent), New Jersey and New Hampshire at 53 percent, Iowa, South Dakota and Massachusetts at 52 percent and Connecticut and Idaho at 51 percent.
The bottom 10 states are all at 40 percent or below when it comes to the rate of 15- to 17-year-olds growing up with their married parents, and they are predominantly located in the Southeast. Mississippi is in the cellar at 32 percent, followed by Louisiana (36 percent), Alabama and Arkansas at 37 percent, New Mexico and Georgia at 38 percent, South Carolina and Florida at 39 percent and Tennessee and Nevada at 40 percent.
Taking a broader look at youth of all ages, MARRI also ranked America’s 100 largest cities by calculating the percentage of all households with children with married family heads. The top 10 are: Plano, Texas (77 percent), Seattle, Wash. (70 percent), Fargo, N.D. and San Jose, Calif. at 69 percent, Chandler, Ariz. and Lincoln, Neb. at 68 percent, San Francisco, Calif. and Madison, Wis. at 66 percent, San Diego, Calif. (65 percent) and Salt Lake City, Utah (64 percent). Bringing up the rear as the bottom five are Detroit, Mich. (27 percent), Wilmington, Del. (28 percent), Cleveland, Ohio (29 percent) and Baltimore, Md. and Birmingham, Ala. at 30 percent.
And the social consequences of these family cohesion percentages are very significant.
“Family intactness is roughly as important as high school education and more important than college education in influencing outcomes of public policy interest,” the Social Policy report states. “[It] is the most important factor … in determining an area’s dependence on welfare programs that target organic poverty [including] receipt of food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and state welfare transfers, Supplemental Security Income transfers and prime-age adult public healthcare recipiency.”
Low percentages for cities predict higher rates of other social burdens and hardships, as well.
“Family intactness has the second-largest influence on overall diminishment of prime-age female, and child, poverty,” the study divulges, while also pointing out that it has the greatest “attenuating influence on teenage out-of-wedlock birth.”
Perkins says the panacea to this teen epidemic is quite simple and doesn’t require billions of taxpayer dollars to implement.
“Children need parental involvement and attention,” asserts the pro-family advocate. “They need strong families.”
He blames many of the moral concessions America and its courts have tolerated and embraced for decades as a major part of the problem, claiming that adults have put their desires above the basic needs of children.
“What a four-year-old needs more than anything is a loving, secure home with a mom and dad who love each other,” Perkins, whose organization is based in Washington, D.C., contends. “There is no better way to start a young life. We cannot have secure, well-prepared, confident children if we continue to sustain a culture where no-fault divorce, cohabitation and out-of-wedlock births are the norm.”
On behalf of FRC, Perkins calls upon the commander in chief to stop declaring war on taxpayers’ pocketbooks with exorbitant and ineffective multi-billion dollar programs and follow through with a pro-family policy he recently proposed during his State of the Union speech.
“We urge the president and his allies to instead focus on another line from the State of the Union address,” Perkins implored. “President Obama said he planned to use tax credits to ‘encourage fatherhood ― because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one.’ We completely agree. That’s the sort of policy proposal that Americans of all political colors can get behind, and we urge the president to put his time and energy into promoting family formation, not further deficit spending.”
This is a plan of the president’s that Gen. Boykin also supports, maintaining that through the pro-family tax credits, the commander in chief has redirected his war on societal, academic and economic decay in the right direction.
“Policies that would act as actual incentives for keeping dads around will work either to reduce out-of-wedlock birth, which is a result of out-of-wedlock sexual activity, or reduce divorce,” Boykin concluded. “All elected officials should embrace such policies if they are interested in the cognitive and non-cognitive development of children, which is to say the cognitive and non-cognitive human capital of our future workforce.”