Marriage Wars continue - various points of view -3/12/02
cmfce at smartmarriages.com
Tue Mar 12 13:06:04 EST 2002
subject: Marriage Wars continue - various points of view -3/12/02
from: Smart Marriages
National Catholic Reporter, March 1, 2002
Reform¹s ignored goal: marriage promotion
While states threw most of their welfare reform efforts into reducing rolls
and encouraging work, some analysts criticize the neglect of one of welfare
reform¹s goals: strengthening of marriage and family.
³States have almost totally ignored this goal,² said Robert Rector of the
Heritage Foundation. ³This is a national disgrace. Erosion of marriage is
the cause of child poverty and welfare dependence.² Rector noted that a
child born out of wedlock is 700 times more likely to live in poverty than a
child born to a couple in a stable marriage.
The Bush administration has said it will propose that Congress set aside at
least $100 million each year for experimental programs aimed at getting
single parents to marry.
Addressing this problem is ³an important step and is potentially
bipartisan,² according to the Brooking Institution¹s Ron Haskins. However,
developing programs is a ³fairly delicate operation. It¹s a hard thing to
do, although there is widespread belief that marriage is critical. The
problem is that males available to mothers on welfare tend to have
characteristics that statistically don¹t make them desirable mates² such as
unemployment and histories of domestic violence or incarceration.
Nevertheless, since 1995, the rate of nonmarital births has leveled off.
Based on figures from the Census Bureau, the percentage of children under 6
living with their married mother stopped a 30-year decline and has increased
every year but one since 1995. Haskins told the committee on the budget for
the U.S. House of Representatives that welfare reform may have played some
part in these shifts, despite the states¹ lack of programs to promote
³Once mothers understood that they cannot permanently depend on welfare,
they begin to realize that they must have other sources of income,² Haskins
said. ³The major means of achieving income for most of these mothers is
work. However, marriage can also increase the mother¹s income if she marries
a man who is employed.²
Programs specifically designed to increase marriage and reduce nonmarital
births could mean even greater success, Haskins said. ³Especially important
would be programs that offer services to young couples at the time of a
nonmarital birth,² Haskins said. ³Job training and employment assistance,
counseling and other services may prove beneficial at the time of the birth
when the parents are committed to each other and their baby.²
According to Rector, there are models in the private sector of effective
abstinence and marriage preparation programs. A Colorado marriage
preparation program called PREP has documented that divorce is reduced by as
much as 50 percent five years after the couple participated in the program,
Rector told NCR. ³These are programs we could fund tomorrow,² he said,
although he said that they would have to be adapted for the inner city.
³The only state that has really started to do anything is Oklahoma,² Rector
said. Beginning in 2000, that state has dedicated some $10 million toward
divorce reduction, ³but it¹s not even a drop in the bucket,² Rector said.
Welfare recipient Patricia Capell of Kansas City, Mo., said she would like
to see marriage counseling being offered through the TANF program. Capell
has been married and divorced three times to men who went to prison. ³If I
had marriage counseling, maybe maybe I wouldn¹t be divorced,² she said.
Preventing divorce would also lower welfare dependence, Capell said. ³I¹ve
seen so many families go through a divorce and then run to welfare,² she
As for welfare reform¹s effects on the children in families on welfare,
studies have shown results have varied according to the child¹s age. The
Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation released findings of 11 welfare
programs in six states that showed elementary school children¹s academic
performance improved when their parents participated in welfare programs
that combined work requirements with work supports.
³Welfare reforms and antipoverty programs can have a positive impact on
children¹s development if they increase employment and income,² the study
said. ³But increasing employment alone does not appear sufficient to foster
the healthy development of children.²
On the other hand, research has shown that adolescents in welfare families
may be having difficulties. Child Trends, a Washington-based research
center, examined data on three studies of welfare reform¹s effects on
adolescents. The group said that the adolescents whose parents participated
in welfare-to-work programs showed increased behavioral problems and lower
Child Trends offered possible explanations: reduced parental supervision and
greater parental stress due to work requirements, and adolescents being
required to assume more adult responsibilities in the household. The group¹s
recommendations included after-school programs, flexibility in parental
working hours, and child care programs to minimize reliance on adolescents
for care of their younger siblings.
National Catholic Reporter, March 1, 2002
The Atlanta Journal: 03.03.2002
Numbers show need for new attitude
by Jim Wooten
The chattering class is aflutter, in high tizzy and low disdain,
contemptuous to the core of yet another silly idea from the "just say
no" simpletons who occasionally find their way into the White House.
At issue now is not drugs, but marriage, and not the president's spouse,
not Nancy Reagan, but the chief executive himself, George W. Bush,
inviting couples to the altar before making babies. A quaint notion,
popular with the old fogies, but one ridiculed in popular culture and
lampooned by the know-the-score cynics who frame the world in these
Is it better for a woman and children to live with an abusive man in a
hostile home or to struggle alone?
That is clearly a false choice, but it is the mantra of the feminists of
my generation who saw marriage as an inhibiting, abusive and dependent
institution for women. The policies such thinking engendered have
liberated adults, but often at the expense of children, and in the case
of the poor, at substantial expense of the children. Murphy Brown could
do it. The poor mother could not.
Improved welfare programs, in their design, rendered men expendable
after conception. In much of the underclass, men are for pleasure,
government for support and security. Men, of course, bought into this
liberation theology since it freed them from commitment.
That adult freedom to choose a lifestyle that pleases the individual
harms children. Said President Bush, in announcing last week that
promotion of marriage will be an element of his proposed welfare-law
"Statistics tell us that children from two-parent families are less
likely to end up in poverty, drop out of school, become addicted to
drugs, have a child out of wedlock, suffer abuse or become a violent
criminal and end up in prison." The evidence is overwhelming:
The poverty rate of single-parent families is about five times that of
married couples. The 1999 poverty rate among white marrieds with
children was 6.8 percent, compared WITH 31.6 percent for white single
women with children. For blacks, it's 9.6 percent for marrieds and 47.2
for single women. Unwed mothers with children are less likely to marry
than childless women.
Heritage Foundation scholar Patrick Fagan has analyzed the connection
between family breakdown and social maladies: Over the past 30 years,
the rise in violent crime parallels a rise in families abandoned by
fathers. A 10 percent increase in the children living in single-parent
homes produces a 17 percent increase in juvenile crime.
Violent crime is concentrated in urban neighborhoods with high
percentages of single-parent households. Blacks are disproportionately
the perpetrators and victims of serious crimes -- black male teens are
11 times more likely than their white counterparts to be killed by guns,
for example. But Fagan points out that among married two-parent
families, black or white, the crime rate is very low. The marker is
illegitimacy, not race. In some urban neighborhoods, the illegitimacy
rate is 80 percent.
Comes now Bush proposing to spend up to $200 million a year to promote
marriage. Liberal cynics scowl. Even many conservatives have
reservations about government forcing people into marriage. But that's
not the intent.
While there is some reason to hope that the illegitimacy rate has peaked
and that marriage is back in vogue, Bush is absolutely on target.
The cynics have a point. A promotional campaign will won't affect
out-of-wedlock births any more than "just say no" took kids off drugs.
But we're turning the Queen Mary here and it doesn't spin on a dime. You
change attitudes among peer groups and among the adults who are role
models. You invite the entertainment industry to change its
characterization of marriage and commitment.
Few of us smoke anymore. Nobody on screen makes smoking cool. We
recycle. Schoolchildren can be little recycling and environmental
fanatics. And why? Because that's where the culture puts its emphasis.
The culture does not approve of smoking or dumping aluminum cans.
It's not a government PR campaign that Bush promotes. It's an attitude
* * * * *
Jim Wooten is the associate editorial page editor. His column appears
Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
Good Morning America World News Tonight 20/20 Downtown Primetime
Nightline WNN This Week
March 5, 2002
President Bush promotes his welfare-to-work agenda during a speech with
former welfare recipients last week in Charlotte, N.C. (J. Scott
Marriage Proposal Debate Looms Over Bush Plan to Spend
$300 Million Promoting Unions
By Geraldine Sealey
March 5 Saying too many families are fragile and broken, President Bush
has proposed spending $300 million to promote marriage as part of welfare
reform. While the plan has received some praise, not everyone is saying "I
do" to the president's proposal.
Promoting marriage was also part of the 1996 law that ended welfare as an
entitlement, but only five states actually use federal dollars for this
purpose. As Congress prepares to hash out the reauthorization of the welfare
law, a debate looms over the role government-sanctioned marriage promotion
should play in fighting poverty.
Bush's proposal would fund programs that help couples work out their
problems before and during marriage. "You see, strong marriages and stable
families are incredibly good for children, and stable families should be the
central goal of American welfare policy," Bush said last week in unveiling
Statistics suggest that children from two-parent families are less likely to
end up in poverty, drop out of school, become addicted to drugs, have a
child out of wedlock, suffer abuse, or become violent criminals. According
to recent census figures, 6 percent of families with two parents live in
poverty, compared to 33 percent of families headed by single moms.
It is unclear exactly which programs would receive federal dollars to
promote marriage, but in his speech last week, Bush hailed some counseling
programs already underway.
Can Marriage Save the Culture?
He mentioned programs, usually church-based, that use "mentor couples" who
counsel other, struggling couples. Bush also cited programs that help
couples work through serious problems such as adultery or addiction.
Mike McManus, co-founder of Marriage Savers, a national non-profit
organization that works with congregations to reduce divorce rates, runs the
kind of program that is a likely candidate for federal dollars if Bush's
proposal makes it through Congress.
Through McManus' program, sparring couples can sign up through their church
or synagogue to work with mentors who begin counseling by presenting an
"inventory" of up to 192 statements couples can agree or disagree with, such
as: "I give my partner the silent treatment," or "I find it hard to say I'm
sorry," or "I want to raise my kids in the church."
Once problems are identified, the mentors help couples craft solutions.
By McManus' account, the program is hugely successful in keeping couples
together. In McManus' church in Maryland, 52 mentor couples worked with 300
couples in premarital counseling from 1992 to 1999. Of the 300, about 52
split before the wedding. Of the nearly 250 who did marry, there have been
only six divorces in eight years, McManus said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about half of all first marriages end
McManus and his wife, Harriet, have also persuaded clergy in 150 cities,
including Modesto, Calif., Chattanooga, Tenn., and Peoria, Ill., to sign
"Community Marriage Policies" agreeing to help couples prepare for marriage
and strengthen existing ones. In Kansas City, Kan., and its suburbs, the
McManuses claim a 44 percent decrease in divorces in four years.
Given the data showing how kids benefit from marriage, promoting two-parent
families is in the government's best interest, McManus says. "Bush is making
marriage the next reform of welfare reform," he said. "That's a great thing
because good marriage is the long-term answer for the whole culture."
Critics Say No Proof It Works
The critics are already lining up, with some questioning whether it should
be the role of government to get involved in marital relationships and
whether faith-based groups should get federal funds to promote their brand
Saying marriage isn't the answer to relieve the poverty of women and
children, feminist groups such as the National Organization for Women say
poor women would benefit more from higher-wage jobs with good benefits than
from premarital counseling.
Stephanie Coontz, national co-chair of the Center for Contemporary Families,
said while she's all for providing counseling for fragile families who can't
afford it, she is worried that marriage promotion will be stressed at the
expense of what she considers "true anti-poverty programs."
Often, Coontz said, a lack of marriage is a symptom, not a root cause of
poverty. Coontz, a professor of history and family studies at The Evergreen
State College, said her research shows that men who become unwed fathers are
more than twice as likely as married fathers to be unemployed and to have
physical or psychological problems that interfere with their ability to hold
Unwed dads are far less likely than other men to form and sustain stable
relationships, while men who have stable jobs tend to seek mates who also
have higher educational levels and earnings potential.
So, while helping to strengthen relationships is good, Coontz said, if we
don't also give parents long-term support systems, we may do them more harm
"Job education and training are what people need," Coontz said. "It makes
them more marriageable and makes marriages more likely to be stable but
doesn't penalize children in those families if the marriage breaks up or
they don't get married."
While good marriages are positive for children, she said, endorsing marriage
at all costs could put kids at risk of living in unhappy two-parent homes.
Another potentially destructive consequence is setting children up for
instability and disappointment when their parents' relationships fail.
Statistics show that marriages and long-term relationships among poor adults
are even more at risk of breaking up than average.
Conflict of Values
A recent study of 2,100 poor families by Johns Hopkins University
researchers shows just how elusive stability in relationships can be for
this fragile group: 42 percent of the live-in relationships and 18 percent
of the married couples studied had separated after 16 months.
Another potential pitfall is figuring out just who the counselors should be
and what value systems they would bring to their clients, Coontz said.
Faith-based marriage promotion groups could teach valuable relationship
skills but may have sets of values that conflict with the values of those
they are trying to reach. Such counselors may have specific views on
homosexuality, cohabitation and gender roles, for example.
"I know some evangelical Christians who work with poor people and don't
impose values," Coontz said. "But many groups feel a man has to be the head
of the household and that's the best way to make a marriage go. This isn't
going to work in groups with more egalitarian values."
In the end, some researchers say there's no scientific proof counseling
actually cuts divorce rates or leads more people into marriage anyway.
"There's no real consensus about why people stay married or why they get
divorced," said Ellen Rosen, a resident scholar at the Women's Studies
Research Center at Brandeis University who is doing research on why people
stay married. "There certainly doesn't seem to be any evidence that classes
or marriage counseling make a difference. There is much more evidence that
suggests that paying women more would help alleviate stresses that lead to
Bush's marriage proposal promotes the ideological agenda of the right wing
but does not stand up under scrutiny, Rosen said.
"This is total silliness as far as I am concerned," she said. "I'm not
against marriage, it's a good thing, but it's difficult to sustain."
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