Food For Thought

Dinosaurs and the Family: One Extinct, the other Heading There


by Dr. John E. Bonfadini, Ed.D. 

Professor Emeritus, George Mason University

John Bonfadini

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 children.

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 option.

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.

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 less-diverse society.

But 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.

What’s Your View?

Obviously, 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 comments. Each one is read with the utmost interest. Send e-mail to:, or send written responses to the editor. Mail will be forwarded to the author.




Home ] Up ] Cover Story ] Down Home ] Reader Recipes ] [ Food For Thought ] A Healthy Take ] Editorial ] More Info ]