The Eroding American Family and Our Moral Decline

Joan Ellis Beglinger has been a professional nurse since 1975. She spent 10 years in clinical practice in critical care. Currently retired, Joan practiced for 28 years as a tertiary medical center Vice President/ Chief Nursing Officer. She served as the 2016-2017 President of the Wisconsin Organization of Nurse Executives and is a Fellow of the American College of Health Care Executives of the American Academy of Nursing.    Email:  jebdesigningtomorrow@charter.net

Joan Ellis Beglinger has been a professional nurse since 1975. She spent 10 years in clinical practice in critical care. Currently retired, Joan practiced for 28 years as a tertiary medical center Vice President/ Chief Nursing Officer. She served as the 2016-2017 President of the Wisconsin Organization of Nurse Executives and is a Fellow of the American College of Health Care Executives of the American Academy of Nursing.

Email: jebdesigningtomorrow@charter.net

In 1970, my brother returned from Vietnam with a North Vietnamese rifle he recovered during the invasion of Cambodia.  Our 15 year old brother took the rifle on the school bus to our high school, in New Berlin, Wisconsin, to show his classmates and teachers.  No one was concerned that his intent was sinister. Taking a gun into a school to cause harm to others was unheard of. Today, the school would be in lockdown and my brother arrested. What's changed?

 We need look no further than the changes in the American family since the 1950’s to begin to connect the dots and understand what we have become.  Pew Research Center has shined the spotlight on some of these dramatic changes.In 1960, 73% of children were living with 2 parents who were in their first marriage.  By 2014, the number was 46%, with tremendous disparity across racial lines. In 1970, 10% of children were born to unmarried women. By 2014, 40% of all children in America were born to single women. The data on education also sheds light on the issue. In 2014, of the women who gave birth having less than a high school education, 59% were single. Of those who gave birth with at least a college education, only 11% were single. The vast majority of children living with one parent are living with the mother. Why is this important? 

In 2013, an extensive study on the causal effects of father absence was undertaken. Researchers analyzed 47 studies on the effects of father absence on child well-being.Rigorous research methodologies were applied to mitigate variable bias. The areas studied included causal effects of father absence on school success, social emotional development in children and adult mental health, labor force outcomes in adulthood, and family formation and relationship stability

Due to the difficulty in studying this complex topic, researchers identified findings that were consistent over multiple methodologies. The study concluded that father absence has a significant negative effect on children’s well-being.  Findings included that father absence negatively affects children’s social-emotional development, is correlated with an increase in children engaging in high risk behaviors, and negatively affects children’s high school graduation rates, seemingly due to behavioral issues rather than academic ability. The researchers also addressed long term impacts of father absence and concluded adult mental health is negatively affected.

Evidence is important and research is often helpful, but in addition, aren’t some of these findings self-evident?  We can see what is before us if we keep our eyes open.

Our society has been devolving for decades.  A clear moral compass, personal accountability, hard work, self-sufficiency and contribution are being replaced by immorality, victimization, villainization, entitlement, dependence, coveting and taking.

We are immersed in immorality and violence masquerading as entertainment. Corruption is rampant and exposed in our politicians, our media, our corporations and ourselves.

 The fundamental work of the family unit is teaching our children how to live; teaching them right from wrong.  Teaching them how to be contributors instead of merely consumers. It’s a tough job and a full time commitment for two parents from birth to adulthood.  Our communities can, and should, be able partners, but society cannot compensate when the family is failing to do its work. We can only imagine what was missing in the upbringing of a mass shooter capable of inflicting such devastation or in the homes of children who are chronically truant, committing serious crimes or engaging in gang violence. In today’s environment, anyone attempting to speak truthfully about these real and serious issues is likely to be labeled a hater. 

 In his 2017 The Huffington Post article,John W. Whitehead summarized the impact of changes in our families: 

 

“The disintegration of traditional marriage and the family, once the glue that kept society together, has set in motion a domino effect that, as it ripples outward, is relegating children to lives of poverty and servitude and destroying the foundations of freedom”

He continues, explaining the direct effects on our democracy: 

 “Data supports the premise that the decline in the family leads to a decline in our democratic form of government.  …the family, not schools, is where children should learn self-government, basic moral values and the beliefs that determine the future of democratic institutions…without stable families, we can have no hope of producing self-reliant, responsible citizens”.

 

We are often quick to look external to ourselves to explain society’s ills.  We rail against those in the public eye - the media, the politicians, corporate leaders – while failing to realize they are merely a reflectionof ourselves; products of the changes that have transpired in recent decades.  Often those who try to engage in meaningful examination of our current state are quickly labeled bigots, misogynists, racists, or haters of some other sort. Many people today are drifting aimlessly and would be hard pressed to articulate what they believe.  

Truth is easy to find.  You have to look for it and be willing to see it.  Our fundamental problem today is immorality and it is impacting every facet of our lives. The solution is the serious pursuit of a moral society.  The means are functional families who teach our children how to live and citizens who are willing to speak the truth.