and the Family: One Extinct, the other Heading There
Dr. John E. Bonfadini, Ed.D.
Emeritus, George Mason University
Statistics show that the traditional family is on the
decline. Contributing to the decline are the increase in children born out
of wedlock (one in three) and the increased divorce rate.
It’s projected that by the year 2010, only a small
percentage of families will consist of the typical once-married man and
woman with children. These issues present society with many future
challenges and problems.
Over the years I’ve enjoyed watching the television
game show Wheel of Fortune. On a recent show a young, pregnant contestant
responded to the host’s question by saying, “My boyfriend and I are
expecting in two months.” I never thought I’d see the day when someone
would announce to millions of people on national television that they were
having a child out of wedlock. Several decades ago a young, unmarried
woman wouldn’t openly advertise pregnancy. In many cases she and her
family would do everything possible to conceal pregnancy.
Bringing a child onto this earth is one of the
greatest acts of human love and kindness and should be reserved for those
who are willing to commit everything to the child’s welfare. Children
are best served in the societal unit called a family. Every effort should
be made to afford a child the opportunity to develop with both a mother
and father who have made a formal commitment to the child’s welfare.
The majority of present-day youth and adults engage
in premarital sex. Why? The answer is simple; society accepts and in
certain ways promotes sex. Just watch television for one day and count the
number of times people are having sex without the commitment of marriage.
Almost every sitcom has some time devoted to bedroom life. The impression
is that there is nothing special about sexual relations between a man and
woman; in fact, it’s the expected outcome of more than one date.
I would like to see a world where a conceived child
has the opportunity to be born and reared in a healthy family environment.
I don’t believe it’s possible to stop the current trend in our culture
of portrayal of sexual activities. The only hope is that all individuals
can learn to respect it more for its intended purpose of conceiving
On several occasions my wife and I have had to answer
the question, “How long have you been married?” I usually jokingly
say, “Too long.” The real answer is 45 years, to which many reply,
“You guys need to be congratulated, that’s a long time, how did you do
it?” I’ve thought about the truthful response to how we managed to
stay together for that period of time and believe that marriage longevity
depends on accepting the unacceptable.
We hear many people say that they married their best
friend and lover; so, many couples expect their spouses to be the best
forever. Seldom is that the case. Things change and people change.
Children and the stress of family obligations will test most relationships
at some point. Both parents usually work today. The economic advantages of
this are obvious, but working moms do make for a much more complex family
life. One positive observation is that being a stay-at-home mom no longer
has a strong negative connotation, and more mothers are choosing this
I liken marriage to purchasing a new car. If you
bought the vehicle because of the paint job you’re probably going to be
disappointed at some point. The paint does nothing except please the
senses. It’s the engine and safety system that get you through the bad
snow and rainy days. The engine of a family is the children and commitment
to them is what helps couples get through the bad-weather days. Learning
to drive the car you can afford and limiting your window shopping will
help reduce the stress of married life.
Today it’s far too easy to give up on a
relationship. Children will not suffer the stigma of coming from a
“broken home.” Many in their classrooms will be living a similar life,
which includes being shuffled between parents and living life on schedules
arranged by lawyers.
No person should be expected to stay in a truly
abusive relationship, and not all marriages will succeed, but the current
trend is unacceptable. We need to constantly remind young adults that the
biggest decision of their adult lives will be selecting a mate. Father
Knows Best and other traditional family shows may be gone from the TV
screen; let’s hope the lifestyles they represented are not gone from
Society spends more time worrying about children’s
algebra scores than about the stability of families. We may have to live
with the current statistics on marriages and families, but we should seek
to reverse the trend. The answers to solving today’s problems with
marriage and families won’t be found listening to Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura,
or Dr. Bonfadini. The solutions must come from parental commitment and a
society that supports the traditional family structure. These may be much
more difficult to achieve today than in the days of an agricultural and
the reasons for trying are still here, and they are the kids from broken
homes and those not being born into a solid family structure.
there are at least two sides to every issue. Do you have a different
view? This column is meant to provoke thought, so keep sending
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