- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 9, 2006

Am I the only one worried about the collapse of the traditional American family right before our very eyes?

Census Bureau bureaucrats are not in the habit of making apocalyptic pronouncements, but last year Mark Mather reported the “dramatic decline” in the married population is “one of the biggest demographic stories of the past several decades.” Now married couples now account for a minority — 49.7 percent — of all U.S. households.

The cause of this extraordinary demographic shift is twofold. First, Americans get married only half as often as we once did. Second, since 1960, the share of divorced Americans rose from 2 percent to 10 percent.

African-American communities have been especially hard-hit. In 1960, four-fifths of all black families had fathers and mothers at home. Three decades later, that had plummeted to 38 percent. As a result of the decline of marriage, illegitimacy is rising. Just last week the National Center for Health Statistics announced almost 4 in 10 babies were born out-of-wedlock in 2005. All this is very bad news for kids, since children raised only by mothers are likelier to be poor, suffer from a host of behavioral and academic problems and get in trouble with the law.

For sure, the great majority of young women say they plan to get married and have kids some day. So why has Cosmo replaced Bride magazine in the supermarket check-out lines?

Some experts cite the “greater economic independence of women,” as if a single mom scraping by on a welfare check is what female liberation is all about. Others argue Americans are simply delaying the age of marriage, suggesting women nervously watching their biological clocks just need a little more patience. But there’s one fact that’s hard to dispute: Our country faces an acute shortage of marriage-minded men.

Two years ago Barbara Whitehead and David Popenoe of Rutgers University did a national survey of single heterosexual men, ages 25-34. To everyone’s shock, they found 22 percent of the men declared no interest in finding their One and Only. That means 2 million American women will likely never see the inside of a wedding chapel.

Now, hooking-up is replacing that quaint courtship ritual that used to be known as “dating.” When Norval Glenn and Elizabeth Marquardt surveyed college senior women, they found one-third of the women had been asked on fewer than two dates.

And this past August the New York Times ran a piece on “Facing middle age with no degree, and no wife,” which revealed the reluctance to wed runs especially deep among less-educated men. Overwhelming research shows marriage benefits both men and women in terms of their financial and emotional well-being. Plus, married folks live longer. So what do we need to do to entice men back into the courtship rituals?

The Nasty Nellies have been giving marriage a bum rap for years, so sadly there are no quick fixes. But this is what we need to do:

(1) We need to dispose of the boogeyman of the patriarchal ogre lording over his beleaguered wife. If that image was ever true, it certainly doesn’t apply to any couple I know of. In fact, the reverse now seems more commonplace: the harried, henpecked husband who is hectored to keep his feet off the furniture during the ballgame.

(2) We need to consider the effects of the 1992 Supreme Court’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision that banned fathers from participating in decisions to keep the unborn baby, thus disenfranchising them biologically.

(3) We must do more to help boys excel academically. Trash the Title IX quotas, provide special help for lagging boys and tell teachers to stop expecting boys to act like girls.

(4) We need to do a major overhaul of our nation’s domestic violence laws, which allow any woman to plunder her husband’s assets and steal his children by merely claiming “abuse.”

(5) And reform of our divorce laws is long overdue, so fathers are encouraged to remain involved in their children’s lives as parents, not every-other-weekend visitors.

Sad to say, in low-income black communities, marriage is essentially a dead institution. And there are groups in our country that now want to extend their agenda of family destruction to society at large.

The family is the very building block of a civilized and prosperous society. What will it take to bring back the exuberant peal of June wedding bells?

CAREY ROBERTS

Analyst and commentator on political correctness.

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