Honor Thy Father


We make a big fuss about mothers in our culture. Think of how often politicians offer sympathy to “heroic” single moms who are doing such an amazing job. Many do, and of course, their lives are extremely hard and they deserve sympathy. As a mother of three sons, I cannot imagine how I would have managed alone. That much having been said, this Father’s Day is a good time to remember that fathers are crucial to their children’s happiness and success.

Here is a small sample of what good husbands/fathers do for their relations: 1) Their wives are healthier, wealthier, and happier than single or divorced women; 2) their daughters are less likely to have eating disorders, be dissatisfied with their appearance, have behavior problems, have a child out of wedlock, or suffer from depression; 3) their sons are less likely to drop out of high school, get in trouble with the law, or drink to excess.

Fathers perform this magic and more – but the key is marriage. The faithful bond between spouses transforms guys into men who earn a lot more money, keep their children safe and happy, and uphold neighborhoods and communities.

The link between marriage and children’s welfare has been well documented for decades – but the resistance to it is just as striking. Feminists have made liberals nervous about openly promoting marriage. Feminist Amanda Marcotte, for example, disdains any talk of intact families as an attempt to “restore the patriarchy to a perceived 1950s heyday,” and Judith Stacey is alarmed by any attempt to “restore nuclear family hegemony.”

Some of the most compelling studies about the effects of family dissolution have been done by liberal and center left scholars. Robert D. Putnam, Ron Haskins, Isabelle Sawhill, Sara McLanahan, Andrew Cherlin, and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, among many others, have documented the heartbreaking consequences of our national retreat from marriage. Yet some shrink from recommending the simple steps that will ensure a decent life for kids. Feminists have so effectively defamed marriage that many liberals find they can’t speak about families without discomfort. Not for themselves, mind you. College educated Americans are getting married at nearly the rates they did in the 1950s. But the opinion leaders among them clam up when it comes to encouraging others to follow the same life script.

It isn’t just the intellectuals, it’s the entire upper class in America (by which I mean the college educated upper third of the population). We would at least begin to tackle many of our most intractable social problems, including rising income inequality, the opioid crisis, and men’s increasing detachment from the workforce, if, in Charles Murrray’s deathless formulation, “elites would simply preach what they practice.”

The University of Virginia’s W. Bradford Wilcox and the Institute for Family Studies are less inhibited about recommending life decisions that will conduce to happiness and human flourishing. The latest IFS paper examines how Millennials are doing on what Haskins and Sawhill have labelled the “success sequence.” What is the sequence? It’s the same three things that the Annie E. Casey Foundation noted back in the 1990s – finish high school, get a full-time job (any job), and wait to be married before having your first child.

Among adults aged 28-34 who followed all three steps of the success sequence, 97 percent were not poor, and 86 percent had family incomes in the middle or top third. Among minorities, 76 percent of African American and 81 percent of Hispanic young adults who married first are in the middle or upper third of the income distribution, as are 87 percent of whites. Among those who followed all three steps of the sequence, 84 percent of African Americans and the same share of Hispanics, and 90 percent of whites wound up in the middle or upper end of the income distribution.

By contrast, only 43 percent of African Americans, 60 percent of Hispanics, and 64 percent of whites reach this income level if they missed one or two steps.

The worrying news is that 55 percent of Millennials have chosen to have babies before marrying, setting in train a life that is much less likely to be secure or happy. Forty-seven percent of those who had a baby first are in the lower third of income, and 53 percent who followed none of the three success sequence steps are living in poverty.

It isn’t just about money of course. The most important benefits of fatherhood are psychic and emotional. But marriage is key to all, and we desperately need to fix this.

There are 7 comments.

  1. Member

    Just some general observations on this essay. For those of you that think the Left is brutal in their dealings with the Right, they are just as brutal on their own side when it comes to any deviation from the Progressive view of the world.

    When you look at what’s going on in Chicago this is no longer an academic exercise, the revolving door of live-in boyfriends, and the lack of fathers as role models has produced what I would call a war. This is not a matter of skin color. This is a matter of culture, and we are seeing the lack of marital commitment across all racial groups.

    I’m reminded of pajama boy, we have started to produce men-children, 12 year-old boys in a man’s body, and the radical feminists can take their share of the blame because they are willing to go to bed with men-children because they have no desire to engage in a committed relationship.

    Children require committed parents, and yes there are some sacrifices that you make, but the rewards are great when they enter into a committed relationship. Their own home, their own children, and grandchildren that will someday do the same.

    • #1
    • June 17, 2017 at 12:42 pm
  2. Member

    What do we expect? We’ve turned marriage into little more than a series of handshakes with fingers crossed. In the process marriage has lost its essence and has become less and less relevant in the modern world. The upper and mid-upper classes still marry, but it’s as much a matter of convenience–“If we marry we’ll have much greater success,” even if that’s only implied. I suppose that’s okay pragmatically speaking, but such practical reasoning can hardly uphold the institution. First Thing’s editor RR Reno has looked deeply into this issue and has found that while there is great income inequality, the far greater gulf between the classes is a “moral inequality” with the upper levels refusing to “judge” the lower the behavior of their fellow citizens because, well gee, “Who am I to judge.”

    All of which brings this song to mind:

    Or this one, which is just gut wrenching:

    And children of divorce are fighting back by telling their parents what a divorce does to their children:

    • #2
    • June 17, 2017 at 1:08 pm
  3. Thatcher

    Rivers of tears – Ps.119:136

    • #3
    • June 17, 2017 at 1:35 pm
  4. Inactive

    I used to be rather liberal (in ways). One of the things that turned me conservative was the marriage statistics: if you want women to be happy and to succeed, then you’ll want them to be born to married parents and to themselves get married.

    I cannot see how “feminism” could possibly be aligned with anything but cheering for marriage – at least if its goal is the health, happiness, and success of women.

    • #4
    • June 17, 2017 at 2:00 pm
  5. Member

    Excellent story Mona and thank you for posting it. I heard on the radio driving around for work about a documentary called “The Red Pill”. The young lady who made it was a dyed-in-the-wool feminist. She heard about a men’s support group and went on to investigate and goal was to trash it. She came away with a completely different perspective that challenged her feminist upbringing. It won awards at Cannes. I had not heard of it prior to yesterday. Ironically, the interviewer who had her on his show was none other than Alex Jones. She said she risked being bashed for even coming on his show, but she didn’t care. Here’s a trailer:

    • #5
    • June 18, 2017 at 6:33 am
    • 1 like
  6. Member

    Well done, Mona. This is a great essay.

    Doug Watt (View Comment):
    Just some general observations on this essay. For those of you that think the Left is brutal in their dealings with the Right, they are just as brutal on their own side when it comes to any deviation from the Progressive view of the world.

    They always eat their own.

    • #6
    • June 18, 2017 at 9:41 am
  7. Member

    I think people sometimes knowingly, but more often unconsciously, act to protect and increase, for themselves and their own people, wealth, social position and power, by doing necessary harm to outsiders to their group or class—outsiders they claim to be, and half believe they are, trying to help. (This necessary harm is always presented to everyone as a great good intended to benefit the people it will hurt.)

    So, of course elites don’t preach what they practice. They preach something other than what they practice because they don’t actually want the people below them raising children who are able to compete with them or their own children.

    Talk about how bad it would be to “restore the patriarchy,” or “restore nuclear family hegemony” is just the kind of talk people engage in to conceal their real motives from themselves. Elites know as well as Mona Charen does that fathers are, and marriage is, crucial to the stability and upward mobility of women and children outside their class. That’s why they indirectly diminished the position of fathers and gutted marriage.

    Excellent post.

    • #7
    • June 18, 2017 at 10:06 pm
    • Like