This weekend America mourned the loss of the National Football League Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson's 2-year-old child, who reportedly died after being severely beaten by his mother's new live-in boyfriend. The suspect apparently has a long history of abuse of women and children.
While there is nothing we can do to comfort Adrian and his former girlfriend over the loss of their child besides offer our condolences, there are some concrete things each one of us can do today to prevent future tragedies like this from happening in the future. Researchers have discovered a disturbing child abuse trend. Children are at the greatest risk of child abuse in single parent or blended families. A study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that children or single mothers are three times more likely to suffer physical or emotional abuse. A survey from the Heritage Foundation showed that children are 73% more likely to be fatally abused when a mother lives with her boyfriend.
What researchers have found is that America's children are suffering as the primary social unit, the family, crumbles across our country and out of wedlock births and divorce skyrocket. Journalist and commentator Nina Easton noted the devastating consequences: "...the odds are stacked against fatherless children—particularly those who live in poverty. Children with fathers tend to do better in school, are less prone to depression and are more successful in relationships." "It shows on cognitive achievement, on social achievement, everywhere", says San Diego psychiatrist Martin Greenberg, author of The Birth of a Father. Greenberg describes the fatherless young criminals he counsels as brimming with rage over being "abandoned." And fatherless girls, Greenberg and other researchers note, often experience low self esteem and rocky romantic relationships as they search for the ideal father substitute.
These fatherless children suffer in another, more insidious way. They often become part of an increasingly common American family—one that is formed, shattered, reformed and shattered again in the wake of repeated divorces and breakups. Many couples live together for a brief time of weeks, months or a few years but never marry, and repeat the cycle again and again, dragging their accumulating children from previous unions along the way.
New York Times reporter Susan Chira observed that "the researchers who follow these children say their ranks are swelling and their lives are often rocky...Children who have seen several families fall apart often wrestle with feelings of distrust, anxiety and betrayal...Repeated divorces or breakups appear to worsen the well documented consequences of divorce, when parents typically spend less time with children and when the family income typically drops."
While the problem is profound and complex, the solution is simple, as we detailed in our book The Tiger Woods Syndrome. We need to champion biological two parent families through healthy courtship. Instead of desperately searching for some body to accept our romantic overtures, men and women should consider the terrible long term affects on their future children. We urge men and women to pause and consider deferring their need for instant gratification and use the dating process to select partners among those of the opposite sex of compatible temperaments and like interests. Then and only then will we see a decrease in the fear of marriage that grips so many thoughtful young people who have been scarred by their own parents romantic mistakes or deterred by antiquated divorce and child custody laws. American men and women once practiced healthy courtship, so it is possible for America to pull together and stop the lemming like rush over the cliff of deceptive courtship. Each of us must take that first step towards honesty and health to break the chain of relational and societal death.