Romney did something brave in the debate last night. He spoke of the advantages to children of intact families and asserted that we should encourage young people considering having babies to get married first. Here are his exact words in response to a question about how to stem the tide of guns and violence:
He [Obama] mentioned good schools. I totally agree. We were able to drive our schools to be number one in the nation in my state, and I believe if we do a better job in education, we’ll, we’ll give people the hope and opportunity they deserve, and perhaps less violence from that.
But let me mention another thing, and that is parents. We need moms and dads helping raise kids. Wherever possible, the – the benefit of having two parents in the home, and that’s not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone – that’s a great idea because if there’s a two-parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically. The opportunities that the child will be able to achieve increase dramatically.
So we can make changes in the way our culture works to help bring people away from violence and give them opportunity and bring them in the American system.
I think single moms should be credited, but I don’t think they should be praised more than married moms. And I’m tired of single moms being used to curry political favor. In recent decades, presidential candidates have gushed over single moms “working extra shifts” and “struggling to make ends meet.” “Singling” out single moms reveals the politician’s tendency to lump individuals into interest groups – and the attempt to win the votes of the biggest new voting block: unmarried mothers.
It was thus that Romney’s statement was refreshing – and brave. He couldn’t hope to win anything by pointing to the benefits of children having a stable family with two parents. But he could hope to start a national discussion about something of vital importance to the most vulnerable members of any society: the children themselves.
Steeped in an intellectual permissiveness, which allows us to believe something is true because our progressive outlook tells us it should be true, we modern Americans have convinced ourselves that parental substitutes are as good as parents at “caring” for children and that children do “just as well” in single parent families, especially if that family is headed by a woman. The inconvenient truth, which Romney referenced, is that children born to unwed mothers are less likely to thrive emotionally and more likely to end up in poverty. The inconvenient truth is that children benefit from “having” both a mother and a father.
The preponderance of research now confirms what common sense and our hearts told us all along: Children tend to suffer from the void caused by permanent separation from one of their parents. Children do, it turns out, derive different, but essential benefits from mothers and fathers. In Ships Without a Shore: America’s Undernurtured Children, I suggested:
We parents must ask if to be strong is to receive only the messages and information we supposedly want to hear, or is it, rather, to demand access to the truth and to insist upon thinking deeply about choices that affect those we love? Do we want to be ingratiated or would we prefer to be informed?
Unwed motherhood obviously happens to those who never planned it that way. But our society has gone to the extreme of not even encouraging young people to get married, and not even trying to increase the likelihood of successful marriages. Romney – bravely – pointed that out.