After reading Dr. Land's article "Adoption: The Best Option," I was reminded of a recent television show produced by the Oprah Winfrey network titled "Fatherless Sons" Lifeclass. On that show, about 150 men were part of the television audience, ranging in ages from 12 to over 70 years old. Oprah and Iyanla Vanzant held a very frank discussion of the impact fatherlessness has on our nation and our children. When asked by Oprah to define what a father is, Iyanla said "Protector, provider, to be a model, a demonstration of what it means to be a man." Oprah then stated that fatherlessness in our nation is "an epidemic." According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 41% of all babies born in the U.S. are to unmarried women. In some communities, it is almost double that amount.
One of the many professionals participating in the program, Roland Warren, the former president of The National Fatherhood Initiative, stated that "kids have a hole in their soul in the shape of their dad" and that there are "consequences to father-absence." From the 12-year-old boy to the 70+ year old man, heartbreaking stories were shared about the deep hurt, rejection, and aching that exists within these men for a Daddy. Statistics and data were shared on the outcomes for men who are raised in fatherless homes: twice as likely to go to jail, less likely to graduate college, earn less money, more likely to father a child out of wedlock, and so on.
A series followed the "Fatherless Sons" class that was aimed at women, "Daddyless Daughters." It was the same format and basically similar outcomes for the women. Audience members shared their deep ache to have a man, a father, to love and protect them. Promiscuity among fatherless girls was one of the outcomes that Iyanla discussed in depth. Statistics for the women were not any better than for the men.
So back to my question and the article: Does Marriage Matter to Children? According to the data, yes. In my work as an educator, I encounter teens and teachers alike who share stories of heartbreak in the lives of children. Teens from unmarried homes are 40% more likely to become pregnant, less likely to attend or graduate from college, more likely to repeat grades, and so on. In an article in The Atlantic, data is analyzed which leads the author to state "Adolescent family structure has important implications for family formation among young adults." He says that children from less privileged homes are even more positively impacted by married parents. The likelihood of living in poverty is much greater for children whose mothers are not married. Children who are born to unmarried parents are more likely to live in poverty and to have poor developmental outcomes. (Rebecca Ryan, "Marital Births and Early Child Outcomes: The Moderating Influence of Marriage Propensity." Child Development, May/June 2013)
Clearly, the benefits to children growing up in a home with a mom and dad who are married are great. When young women experience an unplanned pregnancy, the outcomes and consequences of that child being raised by an unmarried mother must be considered. Fully informed decision-making demands no less. The option most often chosen by young women in this situation is parenting, abortion is the second most chosen option, and adoption is a very distant third with less than 1% of women of any age choosing this option. All of the options are hard; they each have very different outcomes and will be a decision that this woman will live with for the rest of her life. So will the child in two of the options. Let me share with you the comments of a 14-year-old young man in regard to the choice made by his biological mother when faced with this difficult decision:
"I love my family, my school, my church and my life. I also love playing paintball with my dad and friends, playing football and hanging out with my friends. All of this might not have happened if a very brave woman, my birth mom, hadn't chosen life and adoption for me. I was adopted when I was a newborn. I was one of the lucky ones whose birth mom chose adoption. She wanted me to have a mom and a dad who were married and ready to be parents. I think she is one of the bravest people I know of and so are you if you are a birth mom! Her sacrifice gave me a great life and a chance to be everything she wanted for me. There are so many parents who want to be moms and dads that there are enough for all of us!
So from all of us kids who were given the blessing of adoption, I want to say a very big 'THANK YOU!' You are a hero to a child!"
Those comments are from my son whose birthmother chose adoption, picked my husband and me to be his parents and gave us the greatest blessing we will know on this earth. Adoption is the option most likely in 2013 to provide a child with married parents, given the statistical data from the U.S. Census Bureau. If marriage is so beneficial and healthy for children, we must look more closely at the option of adoption and the benefits it brings to children, families and our nation. There are an estimated 2,000,000 couples wanting and waiting to adopt.
Joi Wasill is a wife, mom, educator and the founder of a teen pregnancy education program operating in schools since 2002.