Author archives: Sharon Barrett

Teenagers and the Risks of Abortion

by Sharon Barrett

October 4, 2012

MARRI intern Sarah Robinson makes the following observation about Conservatives and the War on Women:

Conservatives are generally labeled with this accusation [of conducting a war on women] because of the pro-life stance with which the Republican Party aligns. But the pro-life position actually protects womens health against the negative effects of abortion.

The effects of abortion on women are well documented. According to research compiled by FRC in The Top Ten Myths About Abortion, medical complications include cervical lacerations and injury, uterine perforations, bleeding, hemorrhage, serious infection, pain, and incomplete abortion. The abortifacient RU-486 carries risks similar to those of the abortion procedure.

Psychological complications of abortion include increased risk of major depression, anxiety disorder, suicidal behaviors, and substance dependence. More recently, Post-Abortion Syndrome (as a subset of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) has been identified in women who suffer from effects like guilt feelings, anxiety, and flashbacks.

Of greatest concern, perhaps, are the dangers of abortion to adolescent girls. Sarah Robinson summarizes some of the research:

Adolescents who have had abortions, compared to those who have given birth, report more sleeping problems, frequent marijuana use, and increased need for psychological counseling.

MARRI research demonstrates the link between a womans upbringing and her likelihood to abort her first child. An intact family structure and weekly religious worship in her family of origin make her least likely to have an abortion. These factors also make her least likely to have a non-marital pregnancy to begin with. Countering the negative effects of abortion in teenagers, which can extend into later life (especially in women who have multiple abortions), begins with restoring the role of the family and religion in the life of young women.

Proposing Marriage: A Solution to Child Poverty

by Sharon Barrett

September 28, 2012

As Maria Reig Teetor, MARRI intern wrote recently, social science shows a clear link between family structure and mental health. For instance, a study on child poverty found that children who grow up in poor families are more likely to develop depression and personality disorders. Maria explains:

Poor children are exposed to a wide range of risk factors that affect their social and emotional development. The environment they grow up in is surrounded by drug abuse, inadequate nutrition, crime, parental instability, divorce, maternal depression….

This environment also causes the children to externalize their emotional turmoil with behavior outbursts such as delinquency or drug and sexual abuse. In short, poverty affects children and has grave consequences.

Just as mental health disorders are linked to child poverty, so is child poverty linked to non-intact family structure. Poverty does not occur in a vacuum. Since the 1960s, marriage rates and employment rates have declined in tandem. In the 2010s we see the full-blown effects of the divorce revolution and the sexual revolution. With the devaluing of the intact family, we also suffered a deficit in human capital and an inflation of poverty rates. Original research published by MARRI explains the statistics:

55 percent of U.S. children entering adulthood in 2008 had experienced the breakup of their family of origin.

This number is even more staggering when we see it alongside the number of children living in poverty conditions in 2010: 43%. Furthermore,

Up to 20 percent of [American] children are unequipped to compete in the modern economy because of a lack of essential skills formed within the intact married family.

When this is combined with the high risk of mental health disorders, poor children are at an overwhelming disadvantage. But look closely at the reason:

Family planning policies have undermined fertility rates and simultaneously discouraged marriage and encouraged out-of-wedlock births. Among its main target group, the poor, marriage has virtually disappeared, and been replaced with serial cohabitation [emphasis mine].

The solution to the child poverty crisis is not a social program, but a simple proposal: marriage, which Maria Reig Teetor calls the strongest anti-poverty weapon. Reviving a culture of marriage can help restore the benefits of the intact family to those who need them most: poor children.

Setting the Solitary in Families

by Sharon Barrett

September 26, 2012

In her post May I have this [politically-correct, gender-ambiguous, tolerance-driven] dance?, MARRI blogger Lindsay Smith points out the problem with the recent ban on father-daughter dances and mother-son baseball games in Rhode Islands Cranston school district. Banning events that encourage parent participation undermines childrens academic well-being, because parental involvement is related to a childs academic success. Lindsay summarizes the research (further data is available from MARRIs Mapping America surveys):

On average, children from intact married families earn higher test scores, have higher high-school GPAs, are less likely to drop out of school, and have better behavior than their peers. In addition, adolescent children of single-parent families or stepfamilies reported that their parents had lower educational expectations for them, were less likely to monitor schoolwork, and supervised social activities less than the parents of children in intact biological families. Based on these findings, one can see parental involvement directly correlates with academic success.

Lindsay suggests an alternative solution to the Cranston school districts problem: instead of banning parent-child events, encourage community members to reach out to children in non-intact families, just as an elderly neighbor did for her when it came time for Grandparents Lunch Day at her school.

I propose a better solution is not to eliminate the event, but rather to embrace the child. Allow traditional families to show what love and support look like and invite a child whose mom or dad cant attend, whatever the reason.

Lindsays suggestion should sound familiar to readers who have also read the Bible. Scripture throbs with Gods concern for the widow, the divorced parent, the fatherless child, and everyone who is affected by the breakup of a family. Psalm 68:5-6 says this:

A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains.

Gods people ought to take the lead in reaching out and offering a family to the solitary, whether that be a teen mother, a divorced father, a youth who has trouble fitting in at school, or simply a young girl whose grandmother cant make the 10-hour drive for Grandparents Lunch Day. Research suggests this will have a far greater impact than raising academic success levels; for instance, by sharing the love and security found in an intact family environment, it can bring out those who are bound with chains of addiction or imprisonment by reducing rates of drug abuse, youth behavior problems, and violent delinquency. Intact families strengthen society. As Lindsay Smith says, Thats something that should make us all get up and dance.

Tolerance, Truth, and Tough Love

by Sharon Barrett

September 25, 2012

As a one-time college debater, part-time blogger, and future law student, I am constantly on the watch for questions in need of an answer (or answers in need of a refutation). But when I decided to dive into the debate over the redefinition of marriage, I discovered that more is at stake than my ability to present sound evidence for my side.

More is at stake, too, than the effects of same-sex parenting and divorce on children, or the ways religious freedom will be muzzled if marriage is redefined. The core issue is love.

The definition of love itself has been called into question. Recently, a friend who works with teens in the school system gave me a scalding rebuke for posting about the results of the New Family Structures Study. She told me students in her class are bullied for feeling same-sex attractions, and if we would stop disseminating hatred and start loving others as Jesus did, these teens (as well as children raised in same-sex households) could have a well-adjusted life. Love, she insisted, all you need is love.

Love, of course, does not mean tolerating behavior that carries negative consequences; it means telling someone the truth. Documentation of the negative outcomes of homosexual behavior abounds. For instance, the mortality risk from the active homosexual lifestyle is, on average, double the risk from smoking cigarettes. Surely it is not unloving to tell a friend who smokes that he is shortening his life expectancy by 7-10 years. To say the same to a friend who lives as an active homosexual, however, is unacceptable.

True love is often tough love. Put another way, love is often unacceptable.

Jesus exhibited unacceptable love. He showed tough love to the Pharisees, calling them snakes and sepulchers for holding people to man-made regulations; he showed it to the woman at the well, looking her in the eye and naming her sins. I knew my friends definition of love as tolerance was skewed, but her words encouraged me to ask a critical question: Am I showing love according to Jesus definition?

Answering this question showed me a new dimension of Jesus love. As MARRI intern Sarah Robinson writes in a piece titled Tolerance vs. Love:

Ultimately, I wish to live my life in such a way that homosexuals and heterosexuals alike would see radical love emanating from me that ultimately would point them to the love of God. I may be accused of being intolerant, but may I never be accused of being unloving.

Jesus love tells us the truth about our sin, and then goes further. It is radical because it is not just tough love, but transforming love. The teens my friend sees at school each day need to hear that Jesus can set them free from all sexual attractions, addictions, and fears that are not part of His created design for men and women. He can make them a new creation!

As Sarah Robinson said, the change Christ has made in our lives should invite others to be changed. While our words may or may not win the soul of the culture, Christs love can win the soul of a person. And this, according to Proverbs 11:30 and James 5:20, is what matters most.

The Consequences of Instability: Children and Same-Sex Divorce

by Sharon Barrett

September 24, 2012

In my previous post, I asked this question:

Cohabitation and divorce both have significant negative effects on child well-being. Since marital instability is a commonly reported cause of divorce, should we place even more children at risk by legally redefining marriage to include same-sex partnerships?

The bisexual element in most same-sex households compounds the natural mutability of many same-sex relationships. Such instability is a strong predictor of divorce. Additional unforeseen consequences, however, arise from the unique circumstances that surround the child in a same-sex household.

A child enters a same-sex household via adoption, artificial reproductive technology, or one partners previous heterosexual relationship. When the relationship breaks up, who has a claim to the child: biological parent, donor or surrogate, or adoptive same-sex partner? What about the same-sex partner who never adopted the child because the other biological parent would not release his or her rights or the partners new boyfriend or girlfriend, who is helping raise the child?

While these situations may sound exaggerated or hypothetical, they could become legal reality in Californiaunder the triple-parent bill SB 1476, currently awaiting the stroke of the governors pen. In her article, Why Californias Three-Parent Law Was Inevitable, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse documents the 2011 case that motivated state senator Mark Leno to propose the bill.

Melissa, the mother in In re M.C., was bisexual, like most of the same-sex parents surveyed in 2012s New Family Structures study: in 2008, after becoming pregnant by a man (Jose), she married a woman (Irene) and subsequently gave birth to a daughter (M.C.). When Melissa was sent to prison and Irene hospitalized, Jose requested custody.

Custody was denied, however, because under Californias Uniform Parentage Act the man to whom a mother is married when she gives birth is the childs presumed father. Irene, though not a man, was counted as M.C.s presumed mother despite the fact that she had lived with M.C.s mother for barely a month and had not adopted M.C. Rather than give the child to her father, the court placed M.C. in state custody so that she could be awarded to Irene at a later date.

Even without the problems of cohabitation and divorce, a child being raised by a same-sex couple inevitably has more than two parental entities involved in his or her life. Either they or the courts will determine how they may share access to that child. As Dr. Morse observes,

 

We cannot count on private agreements among the parties to solve all problems and manage all disputes. A subset of these cases is going to end up being settled by the family courts. Therefore, not only does same-sex parenting create an impetus to triple-parenting, it creates an impetus for state involvement in the ongoing management of these complex relationships.

The redefinition of marriage and the redefinition of parenthood that must accompany it creates a legal quagmire. As more disputes like In re M.C. enter the courts, more children are likely to be divorced from their parents and from the natural definition of family.

The Consequences of Instability: Child and Same-Sex Partnerships

by Sharon Barrett

September 21, 2012

In a 2004 New York Times opinion piece, Professor Don Browning of the University of Chicago said this of same-sex parenting: [W]e know next to nothing about its effect on children. Large-scale studies unmarked by major flaws simply had not been conducted, in part because same-sex households are a distinct minority in the United States. As of 2005, fewer than 0.4% of American children lived in households headed by same-sex couples.

Eight years later, what do we know? Same-sex households are still a minority, according to the New Family Structures Study. The NFSS highlights two other salient facts about these households: (1) many are poor and/or minority households (associated with increased risk of divorce), and (2) almost all are, technically, bisexual households. Typically, one parent moved in with a same-sex partner after divorcing or separating from the childs other biological parent.

In other words, most people entering same-sex relationships have already experienced instability in their sexual and emotional life. Giving a relationship the sanction of church or state wont infuse it with a stability it doesnt possess.

Not only have many persons in same-sex relationships suffered from the instability of a previous relationship, same-sex partnerships are naturally more tenuous than man-woman marriages. As I noted in a recent post on the MARRI (Marriage and Religion Research Institute) blog:

Man-woman marriage is built on a peculiar other-centeredness; it demands that two people who are polar opposites learn to live together. Paradoxically, this tension helps create stability. By nature, a same-sex relationship lacks this tension.

What are the consequences of instability? The first is easy: cohabitation (often with multiple partners) instead of marriage. In Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, and other nations that legally redefined marriage between 2001 and 2006, only a fraction of homosexuals took the option in some cases, only a fraction of a percent. In Massachusetts and Vermont, the story is similar. Across the United States, a large body of research indicate[s] that few homosexual relationships achieve the longevity common in marriages.

The second is obvious: divorce. In the past, same-sex couples who got a slice of the marriage pie immediately wanted their share of the divorce market. In South Africa, couples who were first to wed under a 2006 law also won the race to divorce court only a year later; two Toronto lesbians who wed in 2003 separated after only five days, petitioning successfully in 2004 for a judge to overturn Canadian law so they could divorce. Or take Los Angeles, where 2008s historic first same-sex couple divorced this summer although they had been together for 18 years! Lest we think these cases are exceptional, of the same-sex couples who did marry in Sweden, males were 35% more likely to divorce than heterosexual couples, while lesbians were up to 200% more likely.

Cohabitation and divorce both have significant negative effects on child well-being. Since marital instability is a commonly reported cause of divorce, should we place even more children at risk by legally redefining marriage to include same-sex partnerships?

Waiting: Whos Naive?

by Sharon Barrett

September 20, 2012

Among the articles streaming through my Facebook news feed last week, one essay caught some wind resistance. In this opinion piece, Fox News contributor Steven Crowder describes why Waiting till the wedding night getting married the right way is worth it.

When a friend of mine shared the link to Crowders piece, several of her Facebook friends reacted in disbelief. One young man questioned the wisdom of waiting: What if you find out youre sexually incompatible, or one partner has a weird kink that ruins the marriage?

When I joined the conversation to point out that kinks and quirks shouldnt undermine ones commitment to a spouse, another young man responded by comparing marriage to a (very costly) consumer decision: Does it make sense to buy a car without a test drive? A third suggested Mr. Crowder may be excused for his opinion, as he is understandably a bit euphoric after his wedding night (for of course, with no previous sexual experience, he neednt be taken seriously). All agreed that, like Mr. Crowder and his new bride, my friend and I are naive.

But are we naive? Are we, the young men and women who choose chastity over short-term pleasure and hold out for lifelong marriage over one-night flings, waiting for naught?

My colleague at MARRI, Maria Reig Teetor, had a chance to test this hypothesis recently, when a date asked her the now-common question (Your place or mine?). But she didnt. No, thank you, she replied. I dont do that.

Astonished, the man called her later, trying to figure out why she had said no. Hadnt she had a nice time? Werent they getting along?

Of course they were; but as Maria explains, she had many reasons not to go home with him. Sleeping with a stranger creates a false emotional bond. Building a relationship on sex short-circuits a couples communication and their ability to fix problems in the relationship. Without the dignity of a marriage commitment, human sexuality meant to be an expression of self-giving is reduced to an animal act.

For these reasons, Maria is confident in her choice to wait:

No, I will not sleep with you, as my sexuality is not there to give, just out of mutual understanding, affection or desire. But to preserve for one person who is going to acknowledge it for its final purpose, the surrender and the total self-giving out of love and for love.

Who is naive Maria, or her date who was puzzled by her refusal to sleep with him because he expected every girl to do so? My friend and I, or her friends who see a spouse as an investment like a new Ford or Chevy? Steven Crowder, or the world that mocked him for waiting till the wedding night to share intimacy with his bride and her alone? You decide.

The Not-So-Great Society: Time for a New Solution

by Sharon Barrett

September 17, 2012

Single motherhood is hard on women. The Houston Chronicle reports that the number of single mothers who live in poverty is a staggering 41 percent, almost three times the national poverty rate. As MARRI intern Lindsay Smith commented in a recent post, the statistics clamor for action:

[Combined] with the fact that more than half of single mothers over age twenty rely on public assistance…these statistics dont softly whisper for concern. They deafeningly cry for action or should I say results.

Many people believe increased funding for public assistance programs will help lift single mothers out of poverty. The Chronicle article continues,

Low wages, limited public assistance and insufficient child care subsidies make it difficult for many single mothers to improve their lives. They are more likely than other poor people to face hardships such as food scarcity and eviction.

But why are single mothers more likely to suffer these hardships? Not because Uncle Sam isnt forthcoming with the welfare check. Lindsay Smith observes that the welfare state does no more than create a treadmill on which the hardworking single mother can never advance out of poverty. The Great Society has had four decades to prove itself, and it is time for a new solution.

What will lift women and their children out of poverty is not money, but marriage not the public dole, but private commitment. A married family has the highest income and is less likely to experience poverty; a married man is more likely to be employed. Women who grow up in an intact married family are far less likely to enter the cycle of poverty with a non-marital pregnancy.

The new solution has been with us all along. It is time to rebuild a culture of marriage that encourages fathers and mothers to raise their children, and their economic status, together.

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