Testimony Before the Senate of the
United States, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation;
Subcommittee on Science, Technology, And Space regarding the Social
Scientific Data on the Impact of Marriage and Divorce on
(Charts and graphs included in the testimony are available in
Map of the Family
Good afternoon Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee. Thank
you for the opportunity to testify before you today on the
challenge that family life in America presents to the children and
the leaders of our nation.
The family is the building block of our society. It is the place
where everyone begins life and to which they always belong. The
more that members of a family belong to each other, the more each
individual and each family thrive. When rejection occurs in the
family, especially between the parents when they separate or
divorce, or even when they never come together, the entire family
and especially the children, suffers.
The accompanying extended remarks in the form of a booklet called
"The Map of the American Family" illustrate in charts the trends
and the dynamics of belonging and rejection in the United States
over the last fifty years. These charts are mainly from federal
surveys and give a snapshot of what is occurring within America's
families. (British data are used when there is no corresponding
U.S. federal survey….a situation that should be
The effects of belonging, rejection, and indifference are
illustrated in these graphs. National survey data repeatedly and
consistently show that the highest levels of positive outcomes are
in those families where the parents have always belonged to each
other and to their children: the intact married family. These
families (adults and children) are less likely to live in poverty,
less likely to be dependent on welfare, more likely to be happy,
and to have a host of other positive outcomes. Further, the
children in these families are more likely to exhibit positive
outcomes (such as higher grade point average) and less likely to
exhibit negative ones (such as depression).
Though these charts are correlational -- deliberately so, to give
the best picture or snapshot of what is happening with America's
children -- the regression analysis and causative exploration by
the nation's top family sociologists repeatedly find that the
intact married family is the best place in which children
When parents reject each other by divorce or an out of wedlock
birth that eventually ends in totally separate lives for the father
and mother, the strengths of their children are not as developed as
they could be, and more weaknesses occur in major outcomes such as
deprivations, addictions, abuse and failure.
When fathers and mothers belong to each other in marriage their
children thrive. When they are indifferent or walk away from each
or reject each other, their children do not thrive as much, and
many wilt a lot.
The chart below gives a picture of how many children have been
affected by changes in family structure over the past fifty years,
changes in the levels of belongingness and the levels of rejection
during these five decades.
This chart shows that in 1950 for every hundred children born, that
year, 12 entered a broken family -- four were born out of wedlock
and eight suffered the divorce of their parents. By the year 2000
that number had risen five fold and for every 100 children born 60
entered a broken family: 33 born out of wedlock and 27 suffering
the divorce of their parents.
We must conclude that over the last fifty years America has changed
from being preponderantly "a culture of belonging" to now being "a
culture of rejection".
Because of this level of the rejection by fathers and mothers of
each other this growing cohort of children has not nor will not
attain the fullness of its capacities. Neither can the nation
attain the fullness of its capacity to fulfill its destiny and
The children of parents who reject each other suffer: in deep
emotional pain, ill health, depression, anxiety, even shortened
life span; more drop out of school, less go to college, they earn
less income, they develop more addictions to drugs and alcohol, and
they engage in increased violence or suffer it within their
Society also suffers with more gangs, more assaults, more violence
against women and children, more sexual abuse of women and
children, and much bigger bills for jails, increased need for
health care, supplemental education, addiction programs, foster
care, homelessness programs and on and on. The expansion of all
these social program budgets is directly linked to the breakdown in
There is not a single area of governmental concern, not a single
budget of a major social policy area that does not grow in size
when marriages fail, or when parents reject each other. Picking up
the pieces becomes not just the work of the fragmented family
itself but of all taxpayers and the whole of society. The breakdown
has now reached such a level as to be massively expensive. With
these results we can say this cultural change -- America's latest
experiment with freedom -- has been a big failure.
Though it may seem far removed from the point of this hearing, this
cultural phenomenon is now a foreign policy issue. To be the leader
of the free world we need a culture that we are proud of, a culture
that is a source of domestic strength and happiness.
How do we reverse this situation?
As a nation we need to set about restoring the conditions that will
grow again a culture of belonging, with all the ingredients that go
into such a culture: courtship, marriage, worship and communities
of families that form neighborhoods that are nice places to come
home to: neighborhoods in which romance, courtship and marriage are
normal and frequent. Behind this simple goal -- some might,
without grasping its import, say simplistic goal -- lies a huge
amount of work especially for everyone, including this body.
The Senate, which has played such a critical role so often in
shaping the ideas that guide and correct the unfolding American
experiment in freedom, and which has helped shape the ideals of
this nation so often, is now called again to play again its
foremost role in bringing this about the changes needed:
We are a political nation, founded on a political ideas and ideals
that animate our constitution and our national history. And the
Senate is the institution designed most to be that place where
America debates the next form of its ongoing experiment with
freedom: more than the House, more than the Supreme Court, more
even than the Presidency. This is the preeminent institution of
debate in this country -- so at least was the intention of the
Founders, and so still is the need of the people.
George Washington in his Farewell Speech to the Nation drew
attention to the need for the American people to be a people of
worship if this experiment in freedom is to work. The latest data
show us that these families-those that worship most, are those that
most belong to each other, that give us the most of what we want in
all our social policies, and produce the least of what we try to
prevent in all our social programs….but that is a topic for
another hearing, one well worth having.
When mothers and fathers belong to each other and strive to belong
to God in worship the greatest strengths emerge and the least
problems are present. For instance on something the whole country
and this Senate constantly talk, and worry about, and spend a lot
of money on -- education attainment and outcomes -- children from
the intact family that worships God most frequently has the highest
Grade Point Average, while children from the fragmented family that
worships least or not at all, as a group, has the lowest Grade
Point Average, as the attached chart illustrates from the National
Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, our biggest and most
comprehensive survey ever of adolescent outcomes. A host of other
outcomes illustrate the same basic point.
There is much in the scientific literature that points towards
religious practice as a great preserver and fosterer of marriage
and family strengths.
Thus we increasingly have data pointing towards two fundamental
strengths for this nation: love between fathers and mothers in
marriage, and regular worship of God. Significantly both are
premised on America's most fundamental premise, freedom: both
marriage and worship can only truly happen with the totally free
undertaking of the people involved. There is absolutely no room for
any form of coercion in these great enterprises…hence the
importance of the role of debate and persuasion, especially debate
in the Senate.
In this time of an obvious failure of one phase of America's
experiment with freedom, the challenge before you, the leaders of
this nation, is how to lead America back to having a culture of
belonging rather than being a culture of rejection; to being a
country where people and families belong to each other and
especially fathers belong first to the mothers of their children
and mothers belong first to the fathers. Parents belonging to each
other are what children need more than anything else this nation
can give them.
The first step on how to get there is being taken by discussions
such as this. This and the debate that will follow among your
colleagues is a major service to the whole nation.
I sincerely thank Senator Brownback and Senator McCain for inviting
me to testify before this committee. It is a great honor for me. I
hope my testimony has been helpful to you.