Take any contentious social issue of the day, and you will find plenty of illogic, name-calling, emotional appeals, and confused thinking. All this is much easier than actually dealing with the evidence and facts. Facts can get in the way of a person’s ideology, so they are often kept at a distance, or ignored altogether.
There was a great example of this recently in a Melbourne newspaper. I had an article in it yesterday arguing that IVF for singles and homosexuals was not a great idea, given all the evidence we have about the importance of children being raised by their biological mother and father.
Sure enough, the howls of derision flew fast and furious. There was plenty of name-calling, attacks on my integrity and rationality, and emotional accusations. There was hardly anyone who in fact dealt with the actual arguments and the evidence involved. Indeed, this was mainly overlooked. Hysterical and abusive rants are always much more simple to run with than actually responding to the facts in an intelligent fashion.
A great case in point of not addressing the issue or the evidence can be seen in the same paper today. One of the newspaper’s leftist columnists had a column strongly attacking me for even making the suggestion that family structure matters. The entire article was one long exercise in emotive assertions and silly thinking, without any real appeal to facts or evidence. Indeed, it did not actually address my argument at all. This is just so typical of the radicals on the left.
My article dealt with the important need of children to be raised by their own biological mother and father. This may not always be possible, but it should be the ideal that we strive for, given all the evidence. But the evidence is exactly what columnist Robyn Riley refused to deal with.
Indeed, the best she could come up with was reckless accusations and ad hominem attacks. Consider this incredible remark: ‘The world according to Mr Muehlenberg seems to suggest that only biological parents can raise a family the right way, or at least that’s what his studies show.” So is it simply a case of “my studies”? What exactly does that mean? If I say the studies show that smoking leads to lung cancer, will she dismiss the research as merely “my studies”?
The studies are neither mine nor hers. They are simply studies that are in the public record, and available for full examination and assessment. They may be right or wrong, factual or mythical, accurate or sloppy, but they are not “mine”.
But in the postmodern world of Ms Riley, truth is evidently whatever what one makes it to be. Thus we have “my truth” and “your truth”. As if the law of gravity can be accepted or rejected depending on my or your version of reality. But if there is evidence on this issue, then it needs to be assessed on its own merits, not just dismissed because one disapproves of the messenger.
So what exactly is this evidence? Over three decades of social science research have made it crystal clear that there is no other outcome for children as positive and helpful as to be raised in a two-parent heterosexual home, preferably cemented by marriage. The data for this is massive.
Many years ago I foolishly assumed I could keep on top of this evidence, and gather for myself hard copies of all the relevant research, but that was a pipe dream. In reality I could never keep up with it all, or be able to easily store it all.
But I did try for a while. I spent countless hours in libraries, photocopying articles from the research literature. My file cabinets were bursting with hundreds and hundreds of studies by academics, researchers, social scientists and professionals in the field. I soon realised I just could not keep up with it all.
Indeed, today there are summaries of the summaries, with so much data around. All of this data is far too much to even begin to properly examine here. Indeed, neither my Herald Sun article, nor this website is the place to provide proper academic summaries of the data, complete with footnotes and references. That is why I am now close to completing a book on the topic. It will take hundreds of pages to fully allow the evidence to be presented.
But I can here nonetheless offer just some summary statements made by leading experts. People like Ms Riley may continue to dismiss this as merely “my studies” but that is her problem, not mine. If she insists on shutting her mind to the available data, and clings instead to her radical ideology, that is her choice. But then she should stop writing columns. Why should we bother to listen to her if she is just giving us her personal tastes, as in the choice of ice cream?
These issues are too important to be left to subjective tastes. They must be determined by the evidence. Here then are some generic quotes, dealing with this mountain of data. I simply offer a random sampling of what the experts are saying on the importance of marriage and family in the raising of children.
Armand Nicholi, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard medical school who has studied over 40 years of research on the question of parental absence and children’s well-being said this: “What has been shown over and over again to contribute most to the emotional development of the child is a close, warm, sustained and continuous relationship with both parents.” He goes on to make this observation: “One other comment about this research. In addition to the magnitude of it, the studies taken as a whole paint an unmistakably clear picture of the adverse effects of parental absence. Yet this vast body of research is almost totally ignored by our society. Why have even the professionals tended to ignore this research? Perhaps the answer is, to put it most simply, because the findings are unacceptable.”
Professor David Popenoe of Rutgers University puts it this way: “Social science research is almost never conclusive. There are always methodological difficulties and stones left unturned. Yet in three decades of work as a social scientist, I know of few other bodies of data in which the weight of evidence is so decisively on one side of the issue: on the whole, for children, two-parent families are preferable to single-parent families and step-families. If our prevailing views on family structure hinged solely on scholarly evidence, the current debate would never have arisen in the first place.”
Sara McLanahan (herself a single mother) and Gary Sandefur put it this way: “We reject the claim that children raised by only one parent do just as well as children raised by both parents. We have been studying this question for ten years, and in our opinion the evidence is quite clear: Children who grow up in a household with only one biological parent are worse off, on average, than children who grow up in a household with both of their biological parents, regardless of the parents’ race or educational background, regardless of whether the parents are married when the child is born, and regardless of whether the resident parent remarries.”
Rebecca O’Neil from the UK makes this observation: “The weight of evidence indicates that the traditional family based upon a married father and mother is still the best environment for raising children, and it forms the soundest basis for the wider society. For many mothers, fathers and children, the ‘fatherless family’ has meant poverty, emotional heartache, ill health, lost opportunities, and a lack of stability. The social fabric – once considered flexible enough to incorporate all types of lifestyles – has been stretched and strained. Although a good society should tolerate people’s rights to live as they wish, it must also hold adults responsible for the consequences of their actions. To do this, society must not shrink from evaluation the results of these actions. As J.S. Mill argued, a good society must share the lessons learnt from its experience and hold up ideals to which all can aspire.”
Such quotations could be multiplied at length. They are part of a huge body of evidence which makes a very strong case that family structure certainly does matter. It tells us clearly that to deliberately bring a child into the world without two biological parents is really a form of child neglect, if not abuse. Singles and homosexuals may very well want to have children. It is a normal and natural desire. But if they do want children, then they should have them in the way that is in the best interests of the child, and not just seek to satisfy their adult whims and desires.
In something as important as begetting and raising the next generation, adult selfishness must always give way to the rights and wellbeing of the child. And the most fundamental right of every child is to be born and reared by his or her biological mother and father.