Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It takes a family ...

Here's a great article published last month in the Jackson Citizen Patriot. In it, Patricia Robertson quotes Dr. J and refers to her book, Love and Economics: It Takes a Family to Raise a Village.

Children are back in school and parents are breathing a sigh of relief.

Speaking for myself and for most parents I know, we are grateful for teachers and our school systems, which help us in our task of raising responsible adults. As the African proverb says, ``it takes a village to raise a child.''

But as many teachers will point out, it also takes a family to raise a village. Teachers are well aware of how problems in the home can affect their ability to teach. Far too often our teachers are expected to be substitute parents and social workers in addition to the job of teaching the basics. It has also been documented that children whose parents are involved in their child's education do better in school. Teachers can't do it alone.

Jennifer Roback Morse, former professor of economics at Yale and George Mason University, shows how it makes good economic sense to marry and raise children in a family setting in her book, ``Love and Economics: It Takes a Family to Raise a Village.''

God knew what he was doing when he put us into families and placed families into communities. The community is there to help the family in raising children but not to take the place of parents except in situations where one or both parents are unable to fulfill this responsibility. Statistically, kids fare better when raised by their mothers and fathers in a family setting. And it makes economic sense, as Roback Morse will testify.

A study by The Heritage Foundation released in April found ``Family fragmentation (e.g. divorce and unwed childbearing) in America costs U.S. taxpayers $112 billion a year and more than $1 trillion per decade.'' This is money spent in programs to help those who fall below the poverty level, a high proportion of which includes single-parent households. The poverty rate for children in single-parent households is approximately 38 percent, compared to 8.1 percent for children in married households. These figures do not include the cost in terms of loss of future earning power for children raised in poorer households who tend not to do as well in school or careers.

In agrarian societies, sons worked alongside their fathers in the field. The industrial revolution removed the father from the home and this close daily contact. Fathers were further removed from their families through divorce and being relegated to weekend parenting. Our jails are filled with men who lack a stable father figure in their life. With the increase of mothers working full-time outside of the home, we have to wonder -- who's watching our children? What will be the result of this social experiment years down the road?

Babies need to be held, cuddled, talked to. They need a gaze to meet their gaze. This helps them develop the part of their brain that forms relationships. They don't fare as well in institutional settings where this may be lacking. Babies without this nurturing not only fail to thrive, but can have severe attachment disorders leading to anti-social behavior.

The family may need the assistance of the village in order to successfully raise responsible adults, but the village definitely needs the family. Families are the building blocks of society. The healthier the family, the healthier the community. As always, God knew what he was doing. Social scientists and economists are finally catching on.

Posted by Betsy

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