It's been a good month for champions of the traditional family, but don't expect the family wars to be ending any time soon.
In recent weeks, a barrage of new evidence has come to light demonstrating what was once common sense. "Family structure matters" (in the words of my
Another study, co-authored by Wilcox, found that states with more married parents do better on a broad range of economic indicators, including upward mobility for poor children and lower rates of child poverty. On most economic indicators, the
Boys in particular do much better when raised in a more traditional family environment, according to a new report from
Perhaps most intriguing -- and dismaying -- a new study by
Zill's finding highlights the problem with traditional family triumphalism. Adoption is a wonderful thing, and just because there are challenges that come with adoption, no one would ever argue that the problems adopted kids face make the alternatives to adoption better. Kids left in orphanages or trapped in abusive homes do even worse.
In other words, every sweeping statement that the traditional family is best must come with a slew of caveats, chief among them: "Compared to what?" A little girl in a Chinese or Russian orphanage is undoubtedly better off with two loving gay or lesbian parents in America. A kid raised by two biological parents who are in a nasty and loveless marriage will likely benefit from her parents getting divorced.
"In general," writes
Of course, that point can be made about almost every human endeavor, because we live in a flawed world. And just because we don't -- and can't -- live in perfect consistency with our ideals, that is not an argument against the ideals themselves.
It shouldn't surprise anyone that family structure is so controversial. The family, far more than government or schools, is the institution we draw the most meaning from. From the day we are born, it gives us our identity, our language and our expectations about how the world should work. Before we become individuals or citizens or voters, we are first and foremost part of a family. That is why social engineers throughout the ages see family as a competitor to, or problem for, the state.
And the family wars will never end, because family matters -- a lot.