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Why we do what we do

Is Not Marrying Harmful to Children?

The impact of marriage on social problems of children is one of the most important, and most researched questions in child development and family studies. Yet, clear answers are hard to find. Children of single parents fare much worse in terms of social problems in the U.S. Yet the same is not true in many European countries. Read More

It's our attitudes

I would argue that that attitude toward a woman who has a child outside of marriage is really what is at fault here. All it takes is listening to the recent round of conservative government officials speaking on topics that relate to women and family to understand what the thought process is. A woman who gets pregnant without being married has committed her own crime and thereby should be punished herself. The attitude seems to be that the child she is forced to have is her punishment and all the struggles that result are her own fault and no one else need care. The children of these women are equally stigmatized. It has been said a million times, but the US has held tightly to its puritanical roots.

Just from reading your article (I have no prior knowledge of Swedish systems) it is clear that Sweden does not place the unfaltering and unquestionable faith in the power of marriage. They take care of their citizens without regard to some arbitrary morality. It seems that shaming and punishing a woman for having sex isn't the primary objective.

How does this work in our country?

I am a little confused because the reason given as to why Swedish women and children don't live in poverty is because of strict laws enforcing the payment of child support from fathers. It was also said that in the United States, most of the single mothers would be at a disadvantage to be married, because the men around them cannot support a family and that could cause conflict in the family. So how is it supposed to change in the United States if the men of these children cannot take care of them one way or the other? What is the solution for our country?

This article was confusing to me…

It seems to consider only 2 options: marriage or single parenting.

Most of my friends who are parents are not married, but they are not single parents either. Was the question for the study 'Are you married?'. Or was the question 'Are you a single parent?'.

In cultures where religion is not predominant, not being married can be the norm, especially for those under 45 years of age. It doesn't mean that they are not stable families. Unmarried parents outside the USA that are not single might just be unmarried. They still live together and put their resources in common to raise their kids.

The article also seems to consider that when parents split up, the father is absent. When parents decide to split up, it doesn't mean that the father is absent. A lot of children spend one week with each parent, if both parents agree to stay in the same school district or if kids are old enough to take the train. Others get to spend the school year with their dads and the summer vacation/holidays with their mothers, or the opposite.

Again?

Seeing as this is much the same as recent article you wrote on this subject, I'll repost my comment from that article:

You forgot (or are unaware of) a few important pieces of the puzzle when it comes to Sweden (I live there and went through a divorce):

1)Joint custody of children is the norm on separation of a couple. Children get to live every other week with their fathers (as opposed to the US where fathers are relegated to being occasional weekend visitors). Fathers who have joint custody need not pay child support.

2)There is no alimony here. Both parents are expected to be fully functioning adults who go to work to support their child.

3)Cheap and widely available child care meaning that both parents are able to have full time jobs and be parents at the same time.

It's not just poverty that causes problems for children of divorce - a lack of a meaningful relationship with a father is crucial.

Stu

Oversimplified perhaps?

May I ask what the class breakdown, average IQ, and the racial, religious and cultural makeup of sweden are, as compared to those same factors in the US? I really have no idea what the situation is, but if sweden is more or less class stratified, with a higher or lower median IQ, or more or less racially, religiously and culturally homogenous than the US, might that not also be significant? You seem to have oversimplified the issue and do not seem to have considered other possible causes for the differences in single parent homes in these two countries.

I agree that this issue has

I agree that this issue has been oversimplified. I wonder in particular about the rest of the world besides the US and Europe; a contrast of the US vs Europe may suggest some simple conclusions but so casually dismissing the human institution which has been the foundation for human society for centuries is short sighted. It's also unwise to evaluate marriage based on the effects of its breakdown. Countless marriages have been tremendously beneficial to both individuals and society; looking too much at what happens when certain marriages break down under certain conditions is to miss the big picture.

I agree that this issue has

I agree that this issue has been oversimplified. I wonder in particular about the rest of the world besides the US and Europe; a contrast of the US vs Europe may suggest some simple conclusions but so casually dismissing the human institution which has been the foundation for human society for centuries is short sighted. It's also unwise to evaluate marriage based on the effects of its breakdown. Countless marriages have been tremendously beneficial to both individuals and society; looking too much at what happens when certain marriages break down under certain conditions is to miss the big picture.

I'm not sure this is an unbiased article

I think this statement by the author may indicate a tendency that I have often found when researchers are drawing conclusions:
"In the U.S., we save a lot of money by waiting until residents are old before the government takes care of them."

Researchers always want more funding to provide job security for them. Government involvement often means increased funding for their research. There is the argument that research doesn't lie, but data can be manipulated to tell a story the way we want to tell it. I have some of those acronyms behind my name, and I know that data can often tell your funders what they want to hear.

My question is, when did it become the government's job to take care of my community? I think some independence on our part can help us do that better than the government ever could.

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Nigel Barber, Ph.D., is an evolutionary psychologist as well as the author of Why Parents Matter and The Science of Romance, among other books.

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