Unwed mothers have difficulty finding 'good' husbands
October 7, 2005 4:03 AM   Subscribe

Unwed mothers have difficulty finding 'good' husbands What is to be done? The many children born under such condtions repeat this pattern and malthusian-like place increasing burdens upon society. Causes? Solutions?
posted by Postroad (105 comments total)
 
If this was on fark, it would have an "Obvious" tag....
posted by darren at 4:05 AM on October 7, 2005


A link to a blog post? This isn't even newsfilter quality. I would expect an old-timer would do better than this. Something smells.
posted by srboisvert at 4:13 AM on October 7, 2005


What is to be done?...snip...Solutions?

Just what we need: more social engineering.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 5:09 AM on October 7, 2005


Causes?

Good men don't like to marry trashy girls with no forethought.

Solutions?

Don't mess with it. The current situation where duds mary duds works fine. As for a solution to the existence of unwed mothers, there aren't any good ones that won't get me taken to MetaTalk. But not increasing welfare benefits for additional children would be a good start.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:16 AM on October 7, 2005


Causes?

Parenthood

Solutions?

Sterilize the populace and grow genetically engineered children in vats.
posted by Ryvar at 5:27 AM on October 7, 2005


From Ohio State Universoty

Perfect ending to the article.
posted by Frasermoo at 5:30 AM on October 7, 2005


It's not just any blog post, srboisvert. It's the SCIENCE BLOG!!!

Simple truth, many guys have reservations about raising children, and far moreso about raising children that aren't theirs. Aside from getting the shaft in the system when it comes to kids, it's not in a man's genetic interest to raise someone else's kid. Simply put, unwed mothers aren't "good" wives by a logistic definition.

There are no socially acceptable solutions. Society doesn't want to talk about its outcasts.
posted by Saydur at 5:32 AM on October 7, 2005


It's like stepping into a Victorian timewarp here.
posted by funambulist at 5:38 AM on October 7, 2005


Solutions?

Protect Roe v. Wade.
posted by By The Grace of God at 5:38 AM on October 7, 2005


Mayor Curley writes "Good men don't like to marry trashy girls with no forethought. "

That's taking a Curley-esque ungenerous view of it, isn't it? More obviously men don't generally want to be in a position where they're raising someone else's kids.
posted by clevershark at 5:39 AM on October 7, 2005


Solutions?

Educate Women, empower them to make their own decisions over their lives.
posted by eustatic at 5:42 AM on October 7, 2005


Should questions be placed in ask.metafilter? Problems? Solutions?
posted by mecran01 at 5:57 AM on October 7, 2005


Probably the best solution is to force unwed pregnant woman to have their babies then to cut funding for healtchare and child services that might make their lives a little easier raising a child on their own - oh and give whatever tax savings to the super rich and fund the building of more jails because we are going to have to have somewhere to put those kids when they get to their teens.
posted by any major dude at 6:05 AM on October 7, 2005


The two person family is outdated. We should create:
1) Free "while you work" child care for everyone.
2) Free 24/7 childcare for jobs/activities which are "valuble to society", especially the ones requiring time comitment beyond 9-5 (small buisness owners, doctors, academics, volunteers, free software programmers, etc.).

(1) creates a social pressure to work more among the normal people. (2) creates a social pressure to do something useful with your life among the execptional/driven people. It won't be *that* long before our technology for institutional childraising surpasses what any given parent can master. So children raised via (1) or (2) will be better off than ordinary kids.

Of course, all social welfare programs should be targeted to provide incentives to be a productive member of society by "selection", but its not always as obvious how to do it as it is with public childcare.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:08 AM on October 7, 2005


Great idea, jeff.
posted by By The Grace of God at 6:10 AM on October 7, 2005


The two person family is outdated. We should create:
1) Free "while you work" child care for everyone.
2) Free 24/7 childcare for jobs/activities which are "valuble to society", especially the ones requiring time comitment beyond 9-5 (small buisness owners, doctors, academics, volunteers, free software programmers, etc.).


Official: babies do best with mother
posted by FieldingGoodney at 6:17 AM on October 7, 2005


Free, huh?
posted by Kwantsar at 6:20 AM on October 7, 2005


The two person family is outdated.

Forgive my tangent.

There was an economist I heard on NPR (or maybe CBC, I don't remember which country I was in at the time) that said having two wage-earners in the household was overall bad for the economy, especially to poor people. Her thesis went something like this:

* Families with two wage-earners tend to have higher incomes than single parents or families in which one parent stays home.
* The price of housing and rents in many places are based on what people are willing to pay (subject to certain regulations).
* Families with two wage-earners can pay higher prices for houses, driving up the cost of housing and rents. When they buy houses, they borrow more money.
* Families with only one wage earner usually can't match the families with two incomes for materialistic crap, increasing tensions in the home when kids get picked on at school.

etc. etc., but her point was that if you figure how much of the second income is needed just to afford the house (whose price was driven up by people with 2 wages), the extra car(s) (for work, and when your kids grow up), and the day care, most middle class families with 2 wage earners are really just barely staying afloat. (except maybe the upper middle class ones). In an earlier time, when it was unusual for women to be in the workforce, the end result of just barely staying afloat or even getting slightly ahead would be the same, and kids could see their mommies when they came home from school.

Someone asked her why she would take such a position if she was a woman in the workforce, and she replied that she focuses on the number of incomes, not on whether the wage earners are male or female.

I didn't hear her ask how the economy would recover if consumer spending for materialistic crap were cut in half... or if people didn't need so many cars, etc...
posted by bugmuncher at 6:41 AM on October 7, 2005


Why does an unwed mother even need to find a husband at all?

Couldn't they pair up with other unwed mothers and share resources?
posted by Pollomacho at 6:47 AM on October 7, 2005


Mayor Curley writes "Good men don't like to marry trashy girls with no forethought. "

Clevershark replies " More obviously men don't generally want to be in a position where they're raising someone else's kids."


Even more obviously, trashy men don't like to marry the women they've impregnated nor do they want to raise their own children.
posted by LadyBonita at 6:50 AM on October 7, 2005


Who is going to provide the free childcare? The child care industry is one that can be quite lucrative, but is also one that tend to pay it's employees like crap.

I know most people pay a premium for daycare, but I would venture to bet that the people they're paying to watch their kids make considerably less money and have no benefits.

How many folks out there would feel comfortable knowing that their child is at least partially being raised by somebody whose income is, in many cases, half of their own?

In my opinion the most underpaid, undervalued folks in this country are: daycare workers, teachers, and social workers.
posted by Numenorian at 6:50 AM on October 7, 2005


I like how the proposed solution is the promotion of marriage rather than birth control. Come on, this is a crap article.
posted by 517 at 6:51 AM on October 7, 2005


One word: socialism. If you must have government make it work for you.
posted by davy at 6:54 AM on October 7, 2005


Solutions?

Something along the lines of what jeffburdges said, and cut that 'abstinence-only' shit out. Education and access to birth control can go a long way. However, that's not going to completely eliminate the "problem" of unwed mothers and their children, and we should help them rather than hindering their efforts to feed/educate/play with those children.

The solution isn't so much to convince men to marry these women as much as it is to make it possible for these women to care for themselves and their children. That would probably make them more attractive in and of itself, since they would be financially stable rather than burdensome, but it's not the point. People should be able to live.

Even more obviously, trashy men don't like to marry the women they've impregnated nor do they want to raise their own children.

Good call, LadyBonita. Let's not leave the fathers out of this.
posted by heatherann at 6:58 AM on October 7, 2005


1) Free "while you work" child care for everyone.
2) Free 24/7 childcare for jobs/activities which are "valuble to society"...


Free, as in NO ONE pays for it? Amazing! In most places taxpayers are forced to pick up the tab.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:09 AM on October 7, 2005


Welfare.

Republicans always complain that welfare prevents women people from getting maried, and it does. But it also prevents women from marying trashy dudes just to help them support their kids.
posted by delmoi at 7:09 AM on October 7, 2005


I like how the proposed solution is the promotion of marriage rather than birth control. Come on, this is a crap article.

Hey man, this is science. You can tell because it's posted on science blog!
posted by delmoi at 7:10 AM on October 7, 2005


Lesbian collectives for everyone!

I really enjoy the assumption that "lack of partner" is the problem not "economic disadvantages placed on anyone who attempts to have or raise children." Because marriage is all about finding someone to support your ass. And marrying "up" (economically, one supposes) should be every single mom's goal.
posted by emjaybee at 7:10 AM on October 7, 2005


Pollomacho> Why does an unwed mother even need to find a husband at all? Couldn't they pair up with other unwed mothers and share resources?

Your solution makes too much sense. Stop it.
posted by snarfodox at 7:14 AM on October 7, 2005


My view on welfare is this: Make it a performance-based system. Literally, you'd be paying the women (or families) to raise their children correctly. The woman would have to take classes in child-rearing. Birth control, etc.

Dis-insentivise popping out more kids to get more welfare by reducing the amount of money given to women who have more children.

The idea is to get these women to raise kids who will be productive members of society.
posted by delmoi at 7:15 AM on October 7, 2005


Polygamy.
posted by Alwin at 7:20 AM on October 7, 2005


i'm not sure that there's anything you can do. you shouldn't legislate this sort of behavior for fear of the effect it'll have on your pocketbook; the social implications would be draconian, and moreover it is difficult to imagine anyone actually wanting to become a so-called burden on society. should they exist, certainly they must be few.

i firmly believe that, although you may never break a social pattern completely, the best way to put it to the margins is by providing people with economic opportunity. if not, then when your unwed mother may find herself in an extreme situation (poverty), which -- i think -- increases the tendancy to do extreme things (such as commit crime) and decreases the likelihood of ever breaking out of the extremity of it all.

Something along the lines of what jeffburdges said, and cut that 'abstinence-only' shit out. Education and access to birth control can go a long way. However, that's not going to completely eliminate the "problem" of unwed mothers and their children, and we should help them rather than hindering their efforts to feed/educate/play with those children.

it's true -- the problem won't go away. but i am afraid that the push for abstinence education will not disappear.

those in power who hold conservative values, i believe, tend to put moral issues above social issues. (perhaps they believe that moral solutions necessarily lead to social solutions -- e.g., abstinence should work if you are moral, solving for you the potential for teenage pregnancy.) it is, and i believe that history has born this out, a wishful belief and not a pragmatic one.
posted by moz at 7:23 AM on October 7, 2005


Solutions?

1. Mandatory sex education classes in grade, middle, and high school
2. Birth control available everywhere
3. Protect Roe v. Wade
4. Ask the Swedes what else we're doing wrong
posted by fandango_matt at 7:23 AM on October 7, 2005


Dis-insentivise popping out more kids to get more welfare by reducing the amount of money given to women who have more children.

This might lead to some reductions in births in some demographics but it will certainly lead to more kids being raised in poverty.
posted by biffa at 7:28 AM on October 7, 2005


Even more obviously, trashy men don't like to marry the women they've impregnated nor do they want to raise their own children.

I think it's more to do with the welfare incentives and no-fault divorce (70% of divorces initiated by women) - when a marriage goes sour, being a single-mum with government playing daddy can look like a viable alternative to staying in the marriage - then their aspirations increase after a few years of singledom and welfare checks - and they realise they can't find that partner to meet her materialistic aspirations......
posted by FieldingGoodney at 7:28 AM on October 7, 2005


Protect Roe v. Wade

There are many birth-control options available today, and still there is an increase in single mothers. Granted, stricter birth-control would see that rise go even steeper.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 7:30 AM on October 7, 2005


Isn't this why some species eat their young?
posted by CynicalKnight at 7:32 AM on October 7, 2005


ANSWER: Lesbianism. Problem solved, NEXT!
posted by jmccorm at 7:43 AM on October 7, 2005


FieldingGoodney:

There are many birth-control options available today, and still there is an increase in single mothers. Granted, stricter birth-control would see that rise go even steeper.

i think you must also consider education. you might be surprised at how few people know about birth control options -- let alone how their bodies work.

my wife, growing up in the south, was witness to "abstinence education" in high school. from her description, you might summarize the experience as "you're really not supposed to do it, you'll probably get horrible diseases -- just wait till marriage." (fortunately for my wife, being an intelligent woman, she educated herself.)

suppose you buy all this abstinence education. or suppose you don't. if all you're exposed to is this education, you're still going to be less prepared to deal with birth control than had proper sexual education been taught. maybe you'll have taken the hint and educated yourself as well -- but i don't think we ought to hang our hats on a maybe.
posted by moz at 7:49 AM on October 7, 2005


Snarfodox wrote:

Your solution makes too much sense. Stop it.

Well said. For over twenty years I've been saying "If you're going to run around making sense, we'll have to ask you to leave." (Yes, I do work in government, why do you ask?)
posted by ykjay at 7:52 AM on October 7, 2005


Why not just exterminate them?
posted by a3matrix at 7:57 AM on October 7, 2005


Why not just exterminate them?

Or at least a select group of the population. That would at least curb crime rates.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:05 AM on October 7, 2005


Why not just exterminate them?

That's a bit rash. Many of these organ banks have nimble fingers and strong backs. We could build some decent compounds for them, and they and their kids could manufacture stuff.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:09 AM on October 7, 2005


Better WIC and Head Start, affordable accessible quality daycare in every single community with enough space for all who need it, incentives/grants to finish or improve education and college (like Pell, but specifically for moms), better job training, and much much less stigmatizing of unwed mothers. Sort of a new GI bill but for moms.

It's not that they need to find men, or get married--it's that we as a society let them down and punish them.
posted by amberglow at 8:09 AM on October 7, 2005


Squeeze them into oil and feed them to your SUVs. /soylentohol
posted by Rothko at 8:10 AM on October 7, 2005


Oh mercy me, you mean they will be old maids? However will they manage? I suppose those are the lord's rewards for failing to guard their most sacred treasure, if you know what I mean.

This is sloppy as hell, partly because they use "single mothers" and "women who have children out of wedlock" interchangeably, which is either a really clumsy rhetorical slight of hand or the work of a complete idiot. What about women who are partnered but not married, or who had children while married but then got divorced or were widowed?

The marriage thing is a canard. Unwed mothers are more likely to marry men without a college education? No shit. They're also less likely to have college educations themselves. They are disproportionately low-income, low-education, which makes them more likely to marry people like themselves. This makes no mention of correcting for variables like socioeconomic status or age, so I'm inclined to be suspicious that they are (purposely?) playing fast and loose with the causation/correlation implication.

Even if we accept the study's conclusion, is that necessarily a bad thing? Could it be that women with children simply have different priorities in choosing a mate, like reliability or good-father-material qualities over ambition, youth, or education? I actually find this a little unlikely, at least on anecdotal evidence, but I think that the study's underlying assumptions that upward mobility is the sole valid reason for choosing a husband (a husband, of course, not a wife) is a very disconcerting throw back.

How do we fix it? Well, I would first propose that the thing that needs fixing is the ability (or rather lack thereof) of single mothers to provide for themselves and their children, rather than their inability to catch themselves a husband. The solutions to that aren't that tough to come up with, but ridiculously hard to pass in the American political system. First, education. Sex education and general education, especially vocational education. Second, raise the minimum wage to the point that a single-income household can get by on a single job. It's awfully tough to better yourself or change your situation in any meaningful way (ooh, and to go husband-hunting as well) when you are having to work two or more jobs to put food on the table. Not to mention the cost to the children of never, ever seeing their parent. Third, quality free childcare. Yeah, tax dollars would pay for it. Our tax dollars are currently being sent over to Iraq by the billions, not to mention funding bridge-in-Alaksa-esque pork projects, so forgive me if I don't think a comparatively tiny investment that would benefit the women and children who really, really need the help, not to mention society at large, would be too great a drain on our collective pocketbook. Free childcare seems to me to be the most important thing we could do to fix a multitude of problems, and I really don't see the problem that Republicans have with it, especially now that they've entirely abandoned their whole just-say-no-to-big-government thing. Oh, right, big government is only bad when it helps poor people whose moral turpitude means that they deserve to suffer. And if a program would ameliorate the problems of people who are both poor and are obviously sluts, as all single mothers must be, or the children of such people, then the program is definitely not consistent with Our Traditional Values.

For those of you who advocate cutting welfare, or welfare increases for children, I would love to know how you think that would do anything but make the situation worse by a factor of 10. First of all, most single women don't actually receive welfare, so the idea on its face doesn't really address the problem. But let's talk about the single mothers who are on welfare. Do you really think that women have children for the cash? Let me tell you, the money ain't that good. Families with one child who are on welfare receive an average of $288 A MONTH. If you have two children, you get a whopping bonus of $74. Baby number three gets you $61. Of course, once you pass baby number four, you don't get any extra money at all, so you really should stop at four so you're not working gratis.

Maybe you don't have kids, or know anyone with kids, but an extra child costs a hell of a lot more than sixty bucks a month, even on the most austere budget. Yeah, I suppose that you could just not feed, clothe, or provide medical care for the children and add the $61 to your pedicure budget or whatever, but that has the unfortunate effect of having the children taken away by CPS, which everyone knows is no big deal, but then they take away your kid bonus too, so you're back to the budget manicures. Also, even if you can get away with neglecting the hell out of the child, you still have to be pregnant for nine months and then actually have the baby. I know that y'all think they just slide right out, especially for those poor, slutty women, but I assure you that is not the case.

More importantly, who do you think that cutting welfare credits for children would have the biggest impact on? Children. Shouldn't we at least continue to make the cursory gesture towards them?
posted by LittleMissCranky at 8:37 AM on October 7, 2005


All that, and I forgot to leave my source. Source.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 8:38 AM on October 7, 2005


FieldingG, from the very same article you linked: Although the report will be leapt on by those who believe that mothers should stay at home after childbirth, others point out that it is often the quality of care outside the home which is at issue. Leach insisted her findings should not be interpreted as a demand that mothers stay at home. Instead, she described it is as supporting a demand for 'developmentally appropriate high quality childcare'.

And:

Leach said the study indicates that not all babies and toddlers do well at home. Children of mothers suffering depression or having other priorities than motherhood fared better with childminders and nurseries. 'Mummy care isn't necessarily the gold standard,' said Leach.

For the record, I think it's only sensible to stay with the baby for a few months after birth, when possible in terms of money and family arrangement, but the hysteria about the notion that a woman may want to return to work after a while and leave the child in a kindergarten or with another family member (or god forbid a nanny!), well, that I never understood. It's like childcare is about 24/7 detainment centres and people work 20 hours a day and never get to even see the kids except on Sunday. Where's the daddy in this picture, besides? It's funny, often the same kind of people who lament the absence of a father as a tragedy with inevitable catastrophic consequences for the children "born out of wedlock" will go on about how even in a couple it's the mother who has to stay home. I wish they made up their minds, are men useless or not?
posted by funambulist at 8:38 AM on October 7, 2005


Hurray for LittleMissCranky!
posted by biffa at 8:50 AM on October 7, 2005


So, Mayor Curley - we're back in the 1950's again? A woman's only commodity is her virginity, a 'good marriage' is the only way to move up in the world, and babies are punishment for (trashy, no-foresight-having) sluts?

Spare me the 'good men' with that world view.
posted by Space Kitty at 8:51 AM on October 7, 2005


I love LittleMissCranky and funambulist.

My mom was a single mom because she left my father after he hit her--once. They were together for ten years before that, but my mom doesn't take that crap. Let's punish her.
posted by dame at 8:51 AM on October 7, 2005


I once dated a woman with children and I'd never do it again. Not because of how I felt about raising someone else's children. Because, the relationship didn't work out and, at that point, the children were fixating on my as a father figure. I imagine such a situation could quite traumatize the children, so I do my best to avoid ever doing that again.

That's my reasoning, at least.
posted by Samizdata at 8:53 AM on October 7, 2005


Couldn't they pair up with other unwed mothers and share resources?

Having lived next to a home for single mothers, let me tell you: they don't pool their resources, they pool their bad decisions.
posted by Mo Nickels at 8:58 AM on October 7, 2005


LittleMissCranky is exactly right.
posted by youarejustalittleant at 9:03 AM on October 7, 2005


> My view on welfare is this: Make it a performance-based
> system.

Nice idea, so why limit it to the poor? Why not also make tax breaks to the better off dependent upon *their* ability to raise good little citizens instead of spoiled, anti-social, self-indulgent brats?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:03 AM on October 7, 2005


> Second, raise the minimum wage to the point that a
> single-income household can get by on a single job.

The sole reason that Blair got my vote in this last election (after refusing to vote for him in the previous two) was because of Working Family Tax Credit, and it's impact on improving the lives of the working poor -- be they married or single.

This scheme, along with things like the New Deal for Lone Parents seems to break that old dependency upon welfare for those people whose lack of skills mean that they'd be better off not working, while genuinely improving the lot for those families who would otherwise be living in extreme poverty.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:13 AM on October 7, 2005


welfare mothers make better lovers
posted by Nahum Tate at 9:20 AM on October 7, 2005


I love me some LittleMissCranky.

I'd like to see the study that says that unwed/single men with full custody of their children have a harder time finding a "good" wife. You know, probably because good women don't like to marry trashy men with no forethought. And we don't like to raise other women's kids.

I don't even know where to start here; since the fact that the article is crap has been addressed, it seems pointless to give it enough credence to even discuss it. However, as I read I was thinking the following, in no particular order:

1) Maybe some of these women don't want to get married (again). I know, hard to believe, but you know, after being knocked up and deserted, maybe beaten or abused in some way by one guy, maybe a few of them aren't in a hurry to get another one. God knows cleaning up after kids is hard enough.

2) Assuming these single moms would want to get (re)married, when are they supposed to have time to meet men, never mind date, and spend the kind of time required to get to know whether or not the man would make a "good" husband? Maybe you don't know, but raising kids is a fuck of a lot of work, and add that to another job (or two), it doesn't leave much time for showering, never mind going out. Besides, the same people who think the woman is so slutty for getting pregnant or being a single mom in the first place are sure to disapprove of her leaving the kids with a sitter so she can go out to get her groove on.

3) The criteria for determining what a "good" husband is, at least as far as this article is concerned, are a little suspect. No higher degree? Older than the woman? In the same economic strata or slightly lower? I don't understand. To me a "good" husband is one who treats me right, loves me endlessly and would be willing to help me raise my (imaginary) kids while treating them as his own. I don't care if he builds houses, spent 9 years in the Navy instead of going to college and makes the same amount of money as I do, as long as he's a good man.

Oh wait. That's my man. And he has full custody of his kids because their mom is pretty much AWOL. Guess she read this article and realized if she didn't lose the kiddies she'd never get a "good" husband.
posted by jennaratrix at 9:32 AM on October 7, 2005


LMC-- You imply that welfare doesn't make people have children out of wedlock, which is true-- but are you claiming that abolishment or reduction of welfare would result in no reduction whatsoever of out-of-wedlock births?

Welfare, at the margin, benefits the irresponsible at the expense of the responsible. Is it so hard to understand why people dislike it?
posted by Kwantsar at 9:32 AM on October 7, 2005


Literally, you'd be paying the women (or families) to raise their children correctly. The woman would have to take classes in child-rearing. Birth control, etc.

I know you mean well, but I think that is a HORRIBLE idea. You'd have all sorts of "expert councils" dictating the proper protocol for child-rearing. It'd be like NCLB in every home.

The more we defer to protocols and dictates handed down from on high, the more we weaken our own good judgement. I feel strongly that when people are treated with the respect and autonomy due them as their inherent right, the majority of the time they will do a pretty good job.

It is always tempting to regulate morality, but it never pays off in the long run.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:40 AM on October 7, 2005


Make welfare contingent upon undergoing a free surgical sterilization.

Yes, I know, too simplistic.
posted by Nyrath at 9:48 AM on October 7, 2005


Solution: Birth control and protection of Roe v Wade?

Haven't we been taking that route for the past few decades and the problem only gets worse?

I honestly don't know the figures, but I'd bet out of wedlock births are greater now than they were in the 50s and 60s. Up until sometime in the 80s/90s, it was still considered a taboo. Now it's almost normal.

I think our pop-culture needs to stop pushing sex so hard. MTV's target audience is jr high - college. Why does ever cast member of The Real World need to screw every person they meet?
posted by b_thinky at 9:52 AM on October 7, 2005


I humbly submit that people who think tax subsidised programmes directed at helping people raise future tax-paying citizens do not really comprehend the concept of what a society is for.

Anyway, $288 a month, no free childcare and no paid maternity leaves? Holy cow, these young American women are really getting spoilt.
posted by funambulist at 9:54 AM on October 7, 2005


Something went missing in my post... that should have been "people who think tax subsidised programmes... are bad/a waste of money/encouraging unwholesome out-of-wedlock reproduction and the destruction of the family/whatever".
posted by funambulist at 9:56 AM on October 7, 2005


I humbly submit that people who think tax subsidised programmes directed at helping people raise future tax-paying citizens do not really comprehend the concept of what a society is for.

I humbly submit that reasonable people can disagree about the limits of state responsibility and state power without invoking the nebulous concept of "society."
posted by Kwantsar at 10:02 AM on October 7, 2005


1) Maybe some of these women don't want to get married (again). I know, hard to believe, but you know, after being knocked up and deserted, maybe beaten or abused in some way by one guy, maybe a few of them aren't in a hurry to get another one. God knows cleaning up after kids is hard enough.

People divorce/separate for all kinds of reasons, for all kinds of "faults", even some split up amicably - it's ridiculous and sexist to focus the blame on one gender, especially with the tired assumption that "he must have been beating her". You may have found the article pandering to stereotypes - throwing some of your own stereotypes back doesn't convince anyone.

3) The criteria for determining what a "good" husband is, at least as far as this article is concerned, are a little suspect. No higher degree? Older than the woman? In the same economic strata or slightly lower? I don't understand. To me a "good" husband is one who treats me right, loves me endlessly and would be willing to help me raise my (imaginary) kids while treating them as his own. I don't care if he builds houses, spent 9 years in the Navy instead of going to college and makes the same amount of money as I do, as long as he's a good man.

Agreed!
posted by FieldingGoodney at 10:03 AM on October 7, 2005


Solution: Birth control and protection of Roe v Wade?

Haven't we been taking that route for the past few decades and the problem only gets worse?
posted by b_thinky at 12:52 PM EST on October 7 [!]


B_thinky, despite anectodal handwaving from the moral majority, abortion rates in industrialized countries go down where there is freer access to abortion procedures and contraception. Specifically:

In developed countries with high abortion rates, use of abortion is likely to fall rapidly when a range of contraceptive methods become widely available and effectively used. Legalization of abortion and access to abortion services do not lead to increased reliance on abortion for fertility control in the long term; in developed countries with these conditions, the predominant trend in abortion rates has been downward.
posted by Rothko at 10:04 AM on October 7, 2005


the concept of what a society is for.

Exactly. Are we all in this together or no? Does helping others help society as a whole or no? Does educating all of us help all of us or no? Does lifting others up help all of us or no?
posted by amberglow at 10:06 AM on October 7, 2005


It is HOW to help each other that people disagree on. (Except objectivists and their ilk who can all choke on their tongues.)

I think that people are best served socially by policies that give them the maximum amount of economic discretion, but I understand that many smart and good people disagree.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:09 AM on October 7, 2005


posted by b_thinky Solution: Birth control and protection of Roe v Wade? Haven't we been taking that route for the past few decades and the problem only gets worse?

I honestly don't know the figures, but I'd bet out of wedlock births are greater now than they were in the 50s and 60s. Up until sometime in the 80s/90s, it was still considered a taboo. Now it's almost normal.

I think our pop-culture needs to stop pushing sex so hard. MTV's target audience is jr high - college. Why does ever cast member of The Real World need to screw every person they meet?


No, what we need to do is:
Thoroughly educate kids about sex and the consquences thereof,
Demystify sex,
Provide ample and free birth control,
Protect the rights we have.

See also: Sweden. Sweden has mandatory sex education classes and sex isn't viewed as a Biblically taboo Puritanical sin. Sweden also enjoys the lowest rate of teen pregnancy, STDs, and abortion. I don't think that's a coincidence.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:15 AM on October 7, 2005


I know there's nothing that Americans ideologically opposed to any talk of welfare hate more than comparisons with Europe, but here you go, a 2002 article from the American Prospect on this very topic:

If the United States is to take seriously the task of reducing economic hardship among single-parent families, we must stop focusing on marriage and instead rethink our existing labor-market and welfare-state programs. Other affluent nations provide us with several viable alternatives.

...Finnish and Swedish single mothers have the highest employment rates and lowest poverty rates worldwide. Yet it is not only employment that keeps their poverty rates low: Single mothers in these nations receive benefits that other parents and workers get, such as child allowances and guaranteed pensions later in life. They also receive child-support payments from the government when absent fathers cannot or do not pay them.

Contrary to the warnings of opponents, there is no evidence that such policies per se increase out-of-wedlock births. For one, single motherhood in the United States has grown in the past few decades, while social-assistance payments to single mothers declined. So it seems that social assistance alone does not increase single motherhood. In addition, European countries with the most generous social programs for single mothers (such as the Netherlands) have high rates of children growing up in families with two parents.

...In the United States, growing up in a single-parent family can significantly reduce children's life chances. But experience in other industrialized nations shows that it doesn't have to be this way. To advocate marriage as the panacea for low-income families' economic problems is to avoid the real reasons why so many U.S. mothers and their children are poor: bad jobs, an inequitable wage structure, and a shoddy welfare state.

posted by funambulist at 10:16 AM on October 7, 2005


Kwantsar: I think the really "nebulous" concept here is welfare, in that people who see it as some kind of open door to irresponsibility and mayhem have a completely different notion and experience of it than people in countries where taxes and social spending are higher, and oddly enough, things seem to work a little better for the children of single mothers too. In European countries, conservative parties too support things like maternity leaves and tax-subdised childcare and welfare, so, unlike in the US, it's a given also for the right wing. Now I don't think state programmes alone cause the differences of the kind highlighted by the article linked above. There's a lot of social and cultural factors that allow that notion of welfare to be accepted across political divides in the first place, acceptance which in turn has a social and cultural effect, and so on.

So, when you argue about this stuff - single motherhood, welfare, child rearing, state/private etc. - you can't discuss it like it's all about universal abstractions, you have to keep in mind it's about specific situations that do differ across different societies.
posted by funambulist at 10:29 AM on October 7, 2005


Kwantsar: yes, I would absolutely claim that abolishment or reduction of welfare would not result in any statistically significant reduction in out-of-wedlock births. I can't claim that there's not a single, solitary individual who wouldn't say, in the heat of passion, "You know, now that I wouldn't get that extra sweet 74 bucks a month, let's use a condom." I sort of doubt it, but I can't say that I know for sure that there isn't someone out there who would do just that. There may be those that would argue that the deterrent of seeing other unwed mothers live miserably without the aid of welfare might cause other women to have a firmer resolve not to do likewise is also pretty untenable as an answer to the problem, since the women with children on welfare already live miserably. They're already as much of a deterrent as they're going to be. Besides, are we really comfortable with the idea of punishing children so that their mothers can be the bad-example deterrent to a tiny percentage of prospective single moms? I would allow that there might be a small reduction in the number of single-woman families, due to the increase we would see in people abandoning babies they can't feed or voluntarily relinquishing them to CPS. The children could then be the full-time financial responsibility of the state. I promise you that would cost far more per child than the current welfare.

If the question is how to significantly reduce the number of births to single women, you really can't start with the welfare thing. Even if it works (which it won't; see above) on a scale totally unprecedented in the history of governmental endeavor, only 30% of single mothers are below the poverty line at all, which does not necessarily indicate that all of them receive welfare. That is a huge, giant problem in and of itself, but addressing the problem of births to single mothers by cutting aid to less than a third of them is not going to fix things on a large scale. Not to mention, once again, that you would do so at grave expense to a lot of children who were already starting way, way behind. The only ways to significantly reduce single-parent births are 1) education, 2) sterilization, or 3) keeping men and women forcibly apart in some sort of camp with same sex guards. I'm really for option 1, since it's the cheapest and it doesn't involve the government having the power to perform surgery and/or imprison people.

If the problem to be addressed involves mitigating the problems related to single motherhood, rather than only on stopping the birth of illegitimate children, than the solutions are a lot more feasible, if politically painful. The nice thing is that step 1 of the mitigating problems solution happens to be the same thing that has a shot of actually reducing births to unwed mothers. Everybody wins!

I do understand why people dislike welfare, although I would say that welfare could be more accurately described as benefitting the unfortunate at the expense of the not-as-unfortunate. There are, afterall, a number of people on welfare who are not in the least irresponsible. Maybe they need a little help feeding their kids after something catastrophic happens. Over 30% of the women with children on welfare report abuse as the reason that they need assistance. Six years of assistance is the average time on welfare, although it's almost never in a single stretch. Yes, I wish it were shorter, since I think that people are generally better off when they are reasonably self-sufficient than when they are not. Still, that really gives the lie to the idea that there are vast numbers of people use welfare as a lifestyle choice. Of course there are people who abuse the system. But cutting off welfare to reduce single motherhood or encourage lazy people to work is like abolishing public hospitals because some people might not really be all that sick.

Finally, I would put this in pragmatic terms. I do think that welfare (although poorly administered in its present form) is the Right Thing To Do. Assisting each other, even without the promise of reciprocity is sort of the foundation of what makes civiliation worthwhile, isn't it? But that's a tough sell for a lot of people, especially when they buy into the myth of the welfare queen. So I would pose it this way: poor people are not going to go away. People who make crap decisions will not go away. The larger societal question, then, is how to minimize the effects of these people on society. Ignoring them or pretending that they will magically disappear with a little tough love is not a reasonable. It leads to massive suffering, crime, and unrest. We DO pay for it. We pay for it in terms of crime rates and social unrest, and we pay for it in money. We're building an awful lot of prisons, and we pay for those. We pay for it every time someone without health care goes into an ER with high blood pressure or with something that could have been treated for ten bucks if they had gone to see a doctor a week earlier, but will now cost $9,000 because they had an ER visit and had to be admited.

Society pays for its least "productive" measures, and there's no way to get around that. You can either pay for it up front with education and programs that help people to make better decisions, become upwardly mobile, etc., or you can pay for the consequences of not doing so. The former choice has the advantage that it helps a whole lot of people (the majority, I would venture) who are not irresponsible. The latter has the disadvantage of not actually helping anyone, in that it occurs after societal damage has already occured, so we pay twice. It also has the disadvantage of helping absolutely no one at all. Its advantage, though, is that it lets people who are not disadvantaged feel very, very superior. Of course we don't want to help poor people -- aren't they the ones committing all the crime?
posted by LittleMissCranky at 10:48 AM on October 7, 2005


And regarding the limits of state responsibility, the issue is the state is the people, the citizens, the individuals of that society, it's not a separate entity, and it just doesn't make sense -- not only in ethical and social terms but also strictly, cynically economic terms -- for any society to be careless about raising its future citizens.

Individual and state responsibility can and do go together, they are not mutually exclusive at all. See what fandango_matt points out. When you on the one hand encourage responsibility in regard to having children as a choice rather than an accident, and on the other provide the means to help people raise children and combining family and work life, then what you're doing is the opposite of encouraging irresponsibility. You're ensuring people who have kids can still go to work and contribute to the economy, and you're ensuring the kids who aren't born with all the advantages of the more privileged classes still get the opportunity to become adults that will contribute to society, including getting good jobs and paying taxes. It's not a matter of compassion, that's for charity; welfare is a matter of social self-interest, self-preservation. When welfare systems are efficient and transparent, at least, they do make a lot of economic sense.
posted by funambulist at 10:51 AM on October 7, 2005


See also: Sweden. Sweden has mandatory sex education classes and sex isn't viewed as a Biblically taboo Puritanical sin. Sweden also enjoys the lowest rate of teen pregnancy, STDs, and abortion. I don't think that's a coincidence.

I've been to Sweden several times and I see a big difference in the culture of Sweden and my own country (UK). I would bet that if certain areas of the UK used EXACTLY the same measures to prevent pregnancy as Sweden uses, you still wouldn't see a significant drop in single mothers in those areas of the UK. Why not? Because the cultural influences are too strong - people are just brought up with different values (or lack thereof) and that is the single biggest influence in people's decision making and awareness of what responsibilities they have (or lack of awareness). By the way, sex isn't viewed as a puritanical sin in the UK - more likely 14 year old girls are mocked here if they're still virgins!
posted by FieldingGoodney at 11:01 AM on October 7, 2005


So, Mayor Curley - we're back in the 1950's again? A woman's only commodity is her virginity, a 'good marriage' is the only way to move up in the world, and babies are punishment for (trashy, no-foresight-having) sluts?

Where in the world did that come from? I think I could only be described as "anti-virginity": I believe very strongly that this world would be a better place if vagina of reasonable quality was easier to obtain. Don't assume that I must be some waistcoated victorian prude because I disagree with you. I wish day-to-day life was more like Cinemax.

But (and I know that the mention of personal responsibility is going to infuriate some people) if you are a woman capable of bearing children, you owe it to yourself, your potential children and the human fucking race not have a child that you can't provide for. If you can afford to buy cigarettes (and how many poor people do you know that can't?), you can afford condoms. And if you can't be bothered to take any precautions, you should definitely get an abortion.

Babies are punishment for people too lazy to prevent them or feel too entitled to public assistance and have one when they really shouldn't.

Women who are widowed/divorced and not getting child support are a very different story.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:13 AM on October 7, 2005


Society pays for its least "productive" measures, and there's no way to get around that. You can either pay for it up front with education and programs that help people to make better decisions, become upwardly mobile, etc., or you can pay for the consequences of not doing so. The former choice has the advantage that it helps a whole lot of people (the majority, I would venture) who are not irresponsible. The latter has the disadvantage of not actually helping anyone, in that it occurs after societal damage has already occured, so we pay twice. It also has the disadvantage of helping absolutely no one at all. Its advantage, though, is that it lets people who are not disadvantaged feel very, very superior.

Exactly. LittleMissCranky put it so nicely and clearly.

Seems to me so obvious that the "tough love" idea is largely an irrational reaction, one rooted in moralistic notions, it's not pragmatic at all. I understand where that mentality comes from, but it's so short-sighted.
posted by funambulist at 11:13 AM on October 7, 2005


FieldingGoodney: You pointed out a problem with the way I worded that paragraph. All I meant to do is offer examples of reasons some women might not be in such a hurry to get hitched; you'll notice "some" and "a few" in there, if badly placed. I certainly didn't mean to imply that all marriages fail because the man was beating his wife; you were a little quick to jump to that conclusion, my poor sentence construction notwithstanding ;)
posted by jennaratrix at 11:20 AM on October 7, 2005


Babies are punishment for people too lazy to prevent them or feel too entitled to public assistance and have one when they really shouldn't.

Mayor Curley, for the sake of argument, let's agree that is universally true of all women who have children without being married. (And again, let's take for granted that the men involved in that irresponsible reproduction should be left out of the picture altogether). Let's start from there. Let's be very cynical about it. Now, you (state/society) have all these children, which are a future resource to you - they'll grow up to be consumers, get jobs, pay taxes, vote your politicians, keep your corporations in business, etc. At the basic level. If you're lucky, they'll grow up to do jobs that are especially useful to others or maybe even create more jobs of their own thus enriching your economy. If you're less lucky, they'll grow up to perpetuate the same unlucky situation they were born in - poverty, unemployment, etc. If you're really unlucky, they'll grow up to become not just useless but actively harmful and very expensive to you, society - criminals, gangsters, etc.

So, are you still convinced all that matters here is some kind of symbolic moral lesson to the irresponsible mother, assuming that moral lesson had any way of actually having an effect?
posted by funambulist at 11:28 AM on October 7, 2005


So, are you still convinced all that matters here is some kind of symbolic moral lesson to the irresponsible mother, assuming that moral lesson had any way of actually having an effect?

Don't be so literal. It's not about a moral lesson-- it's about self-centered people, interested only in getting resources to produce more poison brood, living painful lives regardless of whether they learn anything or deter others. Nobody ever really learns, anyway.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:38 AM on October 7, 2005


Sadly, Mayor Curley, people are woefully uneducated about birth control. Even if they use it, even the most careful birth control sometimes fails. And abortions are really expensive, and increasingly difficult for lower income women to get. And then there's rape. My biggest problem with your comments is 1) the "trashy" comment doesn't exactly suggest that you're all that favorably inclined to women who have sex (at least writ large, maybe not with you personally), and 2) that you put the blame for pregnancy entirely on women, when I'm fairly certain that there had to be a man involved somehow in starting a pregnancy. The woman does bear much more of the negative consequences of the pregnancy, and so has a larger self-interest in preventing it, but "personal responsibility" is a lot easier to throw around when you've just absolved your gender by omission.

And okay, I'll say it again. Problems like this cost society, not to mention the children that you're dismissing as "punishment." I'm pleased that you are not one of these people with such an atrocious lack of personal responsibility (nor the offspring of such a person), but the exemplary responsible people of the world are still going to have to deal with these problems.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 11:40 AM on October 7, 2005


1) the "trashy" comment doesn't exactly suggest that you're all that favorably inclined to women who have sex (at least writ large, maybe not with you personally)

There's a difference between having sex and having children. Let me reiterate-- women who have sex are great. Women who have babies they can't afford are not. Pregnancy is not an inevitable consequence of having sex.

2) that you put the blame for pregnancy entirely on women, when I'm fairly certain that there had to be a man involved somehow in starting a pregnancy. The woman does bear much more of the negative consequences of the pregnancy, and so has a larger self-interest in preventing it, but "personal responsibility" is a lot easier to throw around when you've just absolved your gender by omission.

You said it best: "The woman does bear much more of the negative consequences of the pregnancy, and so has a larger self-interest in preventing it".

I assure you that men who are indiscriminate about whom they impregnate are just as disgusting. But it's just a sad fact of biology that trashy men don't have to even be on the same continent when the baby comes. The situation is unfair, but you can no more change this than you can the tide.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:58 AM on October 7, 2005


Kwantsar: yes, I would absolutely claim that abolishment or reduction of welfare would not result in any statistically significant reduction in out-of-wedlock births.

Do you further hold that all of these numbers are too out-of-date and thus meaningless?
posted by Kwantsar at 12:04 PM on October 7, 2005


Mayor Curley writes "But not increasing welfare benefits for additional children would be a good start."

Yes, making the children live in conditions resembling those of a a third world hell hole is the perfect way not to continue the cycle.
posted by Mitheral at 12:04 PM on October 7, 2005


But Mayor, you could go on and on saying that, but the point is not what you think about people who aren't as clever as you'd like them to be. Again, let's agree you are absolutely right, let's also keep leaving dear daddy out of the picture, and state with absolute certainty and resolute indignation that it's all the fault of those lazy ignorant selfish silly women for not wearing a condom on their penises. The question still remains: what are you going to do about it, as a society, to minimise the possibility that such irresponsibly conceived offspring become a much more costly burden to you 20 years down the line, even if only by reproducing the exact same situation they were born in. Because even if we put the problem down to isolated individual responsibilities, it will impact you as a society, like it or not. So you have to deal with the question. Wishing it away won't do.

You may not even be personally interested in the economics of the issue, but society is. By necessity.

And what do you think is more expensive for taxpayers, subsidised childcare, or poverty, unemployment, and crime?

I'm not saying more social spending for the benefit of children would automatically reduce all that, but usually, it's not a bad place to start to try and do something about it. Otherwise, the problem is just going to perpetuate itself across future generations and your children will be left complaining about how irresponsible poor people are, and so on and so forth. Are you sure you are being responsible to your own children by refusing to think about the society they'll have to live in?
posted by funambulist at 12:24 PM on October 7, 2005


Do you further hold that all of these numbers are too out-of-date and thus meaningless?

Well, considering their study was published in 1995, and the giant welfare reform overhaul bill was passed in 1996, yeah, I would say they're pretty meaningless. That, and the fact that it actually doesn't say anything at all about rates of unwed births. Oh, and also the giant bad-faith problems with their methodology, like using the theoretical value of what a "typical" family "could" receive, rather than looking at what people actually receive, which is wildly different. And that they appeared to just add the value of different services together, when some services atenuate your benefits from others. And that they used the value of things like medicaide as income, which is not exactly like having money in your pocket.

Incidentally, here are some pretty graphs and charts about what happened following the welfare reforms -- you know, the ones that were going to motivate all the wellfare queens to get off their lazy asses? There was a lot of talk about how the reforms were going to stem the rising tide of unwed mothers then, too. In reality, the number of unwed mothers continued to rise at the same or quicker pace than before.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 12:34 PM on October 7, 2005


Do you further hold that all of these numbers are too out-of-date and thus meaningless?
posted by Kwantsar at 3:04 PM EST on October 7 [!]


Those numbers are from the Cato Institute, which immediately call their source and interpretation into doubt with respect to the conclusions made. I might as well quote the Ayn Rand Institute about their views on welfare.
posted by Rothko at 12:34 PM on October 7, 2005


Argggh...medicaid, obviously.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 12:36 PM on October 7, 2005


bugmuncher:

I beleive the woman you were listening to was Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren, who happens to be the economist who testified before Congress that some outrageous percentage of people filing for bankruptcy did so because of medical debt. Her theory on 2 wage earner families in a nutshell is that a) families under-estimate the amount of money that goes towards expenses associated with the second parent working b) the second wage, far from being "squandered" on luxuries like big screen televisions and trips to Hawaii or even put in a savings account, are being spent on day to day necessities, meaning that any minor incident -- illness, layoff, water heater dies , transmission fails -- can cause financial catastrophe.

It is worth noting that her co-author on The Two-Income Trap is her daughter. I assume this means she has some experience balancing home and work obligations.
posted by ilsa at 12:55 PM on October 7, 2005


*furious screed deleted*

Thank you LittleMissCranky (who so admirably does not live up to her name) and funambulist, for both so calmly and articulately saying what I, in a spluttering rage at Mayor Curley, could not manage without resorting to words of one syllable. Kudos.

I'll just add one thing: the problem is not necessarily one of "personal responsiblity", or "trashy women"; the problem is rather correctly described, instead, as that of poverty. If one minimum wage income could support a household-- and I think you'll find that this is the huge difference between America and Sweden already mentioned, with state benefits factored in-- then I think this discussion would be very different, and wouldn't fall back on risible arguments about morality and character and marriage and such nonsense.
posted by jokeefe at 1:01 PM on October 7, 2005


For those championing education as a method to reduce unwanted pregnancies, simply replace "education" with "water" and you will understand me when I say you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 3:48 PM on October 7, 2005


If you reread para one you will note that the study refers to women who have children outside of marriage. That does NOT mean women who when married have children and then divorce and become single parents.
1) our country seriously prohibits true sex education--preferring instead the non-workable Chastity teaching.
2) our country still tries to make abortion illegal and many clilnics have closed because of fears.
3) clearly a single parent household does not earn anywhere as much as the both parents working household, and the mother with children and no husband more often than not does not have the benefit of childcare so the mother can work
4) the convention of unstable or broken or no marriage among blacks can be dated back to the days of slavery, at which time babies from "marriages" were ripped from their "homes" and sold off..there was no stable family unit in slave states.
5) given massive discrimination against blacks, men were often unable to support a family and in leaving, the woman qualified for welfare--money otherwise not available.
6) raising the minimum wage will not help a mother with 4 young children who needs someone to to watch the kids while she works...and minimu wage for one parent worker is hardly going to do much in today's economic climate.
7) education is usually a predictor of those who will willingly limit family size--they know what raising children costs. But minority people are usually among the highest of dropouts in public schools--you know some of the reasons--and as some black scholars have noted, those minority kids who try to get ahead are often put down by their peers as palying whities' game. Peer pressure is hard to resist when you are young.
posted by Postroad at 4:34 PM on October 7, 2005


FieldingGoodney, Those researchers *specifically* said not to interpret their findings in the way you did! Did you not even read the article you linked?

One day soonish our understanding of human development will reach the point where trained professionals can outdo any parent, soon after that having 24/7 childcare would be benifitial. Every mystery succumbs to the scientific method eventually.

For the 24/7 childcare proposal, I envision a large "housing project" consisting entirely of single parents with built in daycare and schools. The official rent would cover the cost of daycare and schools but their would be "fellowship" money provided by other taxpayers, which would go to people like medical students, graduate students, academics, doctors, etc. The daycare and schools would be good because the only people who could afford to live there would be smart or rich, or at least "driven". Taxpayers would benifit in the same way they benifit from providing merit based fellowships for students, but they would also create a pressure among the middle class to qualify for such "child raising fellowships."

BTW, The joke solutions of Alwin & jmccorm (polygamy and lesbianism) are not so incredibly far out either.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:15 PM on October 7, 2005


One day soonish our understanding of human development will reach the point where trained professionals can outdo any parent

See, this is where you and I differ - you seem to be able to quantify parenting as a measurable skill that can be graded, with the only criteria being literally looking after them (keeping an eye on them, changing their nappies, giving them things to play with and feeding them). What about making a child feel they belong? What about the concept of children wanting to identify with their parents? Role models? Love, support? Professional childcare workers, ultimately, are just doing their job. They can never dedicate themselves to these children in the way that parents are supposed to. And should a child ask for some love and affection (perhaps not directly, but all children need these things), who do they turn to? Also, I'm sure in these hysterical times, childcare workers will have been instructed not to get too physically close to the children they look after. If you think it's enough to simply have professional childcare workers bring up children literally 24/7, you've just overlooked a lot of children's needs, that if left neglected, have a good chance of disenfranchising and alienating them - and creating more and more dysfunctional adults for the future (not good for them, or society).
posted by FieldingGoodney at 12:34 AM on October 8, 2005


FieldingGoodney, I have a feeling jeff's comment was so very slightly sarcastic.

jeff: see, anyone can interpret anything the way they want to, the researcher was just pointing out the aim of the research and what they found out about the quality of childcare in the UK.

Now imagine a study finding that the quality of primary schools is not as good as it could be. You could interpret that as proof that homeschooling is better, or you could conclude that maybe schools are worth improving. Even more so when they're paid by taxpayers.

In the end, no study, no essays, no books, no debates are going to dictate individual choices on how people raise their kids. No one reads an article in the Guardian and goes, oooh, I should really give up my job and spend all day with my three-year old. Or, conversely, read an article and be struck by the epiphany that they could go back to that nice job and leave their three-year old in childcare until they get back home in the afternoon. People choose these things based on how much money they have, what kind of jobs they have, how much they like that job, what they plan doing long-term after the kids have grown, how much income the other partner brings in, whether there is accessible childcare or not in their area, and last but not least, their personality and preferences.

You may think there's people here saying everyone must put their kids in childcare right after they're born until school age because that's the universally good thing to do. But the only people saying there's a universally good thing to do here are those saying all mothers -- even those with a partner, it's the mothers alone who raise kids, men are just completely redudant after insemination, apparently (still it's a tragedy if they're not around, how does that work?) -- should never ever even think of leaving their younger ones in the care of others during work hours, full or part time, because that would be the universally bad thing to do.

But in the end it doesn't matter what you or I or any researcher think is the universally good or bad thing to do, because they cannnot give orders to you or me or other researchers on how to live their lives. So, there will always be people who'll choose, more or less voluntarily depending on their economic and personal circumstances, either of those options. As has always happened, because help with raising kids, for richer people (nannies) and poorre people (grandmas, older siblings) alike, is not a modern invention.

Now, since a state is usually rather interested both in the upbringing of its future citizens and in ensuring parents who can/need/want to work during the day, even when they have young kids, can continue to work, it often makes the decision, for its own interest, and given enough popular consensus, to make that option available for those who want to take it, without forcing anyone to do anything they don't want to. This already happens in many countries, other countries choose differently based on the prevailing mentality, and people within that same country will often have different opinions of what services the state should provide and how much it can benefit society as a whole and how much public money should be spent on it rather than on other things on which a lot more money is being spent/wasted and whose benefit may be questionable, depending on opinions -- that's why there is a debate. It would sure be a lot more dramatic if it was about the state ripping toddlers from their mother's breasts based on the beliefs of social scientists with a mad and evil authoritarian streak, but I'm afraid it's all a rather pathetically democratic principle.
posted by funambulist at 2:46 AM on October 8, 2005


For those championing education as a method to reduce unwanted pregnancies, simply replace "education" with "water" and you will understand me when I say you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

Yeah, that's a truism, FieldingGoodney. But see, when people send their kids to school even up to university they have no guarantee they won't drop out and take up selling drugs as their life occupation instead of developing the skills to get a job. Still, people still send their kids to school. Why teach anything at all, if there's always the chance that the lesson will go wasted?
posted by funambulist at 2:54 AM on October 8, 2005


And another thing - the countries that have accessible state-subsidized childcare also have generous paid maternity leaves (or parental leaves, for both parents) so that childcare is something you start to think about after 1 or 1/2 years. You'd think that all the people who argue against subsidised childcare would at least support this, but no, because in the end it's not about the babies, it's about taxes. As long as people who hate all talk of welfare don't see the details of where their tax money is already being spent, or as long as they're convinced those hundreds of billions are going into worthy epochal battles, it's fine, the moment they know it's being used to help individuals then it's oh god nanny state and libertarian principles of self-reliance and individual responsibility trampled upon! Tell me it isn't so.
posted by funambulist at 3:09 AM on October 8, 2005


Yeah, that's a truism, FieldingGoodney. But see, when people send their kids to school even up to university they have no guarantee they won't drop out and take up selling drugs as their life occupation instead of developing the skills to get a job. Still, people still send their kids to school. Why teach anything at all, if there's always the chance that the lesson will go wasted?

I still think sex education has a minimal effect on the number of unwanted pregnancies - the real influences are cultural. Wherever I see poor areas in the UK, I see a particular mix of apathy and aggression. I've seen poor areas in Japan, Thailand and Austria (3 countries I've spent considerable amount of time in), and it's a whole different atmosphere - there's not the aggression, nor apathy (in general). I think apathy is dangerous - some people just can't be bothered to protect themselves from situations. You can drag them into sex education classes, but I doubt it would do much good. There are deeper causes here. You can't teach someone to care about their life (well, you can - but it takes many years, and tends to involve loving relationships, including loving relationships from parents).
posted by FieldingGoodney at 7:30 AM on October 8, 2005


Maybe you can't make people to care about their life, FieldingGoodney. You can, however, teach them that douching with coke doesn't prevent pregnancy, you can get pregnant when you're having your period, and breast feeding is not nearly the "natural birth control" that people generally think it is. It may be inconceivable to you that people are still not clear on this, but it's reality. That's the sex education part. Other education addresses your last comment. Access to education is the best bet that people have to leave the margins of culture.

Obviously, you are never going to force everyone to stop having children in less than optimal situations. That's not the point, and I think that it's pretty intellectually lazy to essentially say, as you seem to be doing at this point, that since some people will still make bad choices, we shouldn't bother to do anything to make better choices more viable or to ameliorate the negative societal effects of the poor choices.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 10:29 AM on October 8, 2005


Fielding, that's a good point. Of course the causes are deeper, and you can't fix everything with a few sex ed classes in school, that's obvious. Yes, parents and family environment matter a lot but that's not something anyone can change. You're stuck with the parents you have. Social and economic factors matter even more, and that's not going to be changed with a few classes either.

On the other hand, because of the importance of cultural mentalities, then education is not such a bad place to start if you want teenagers to be responsible and to care about their life, not just to avoid STD's and pregnancies but as a general attitude.
There are many studies on these things that show the impact of education and information is very relevant, even aside from larger cultural differences. It's not useless at all. The levels of teenage pregnancies in the UK are the highest in Europe and the government is already spending money on programmes to reduce that. An educational approach may not deal with all the deeper issues but that's no reason not to start somewhere. Otherwise everyone gives in to apathy.

I just don't understand the resistance to any kind of social approach even when it's shown to work.
posted by funambulist at 11:04 AM on October 8, 2005


Obviously, you are never going to force everyone to stop having children in less than optimal situations. That's not the point, and I think that it's pretty intellectually lazy to essentially say, as you seem to be doing at this point, that since some people will still make bad choices, we shouldn't bother to do anything to make better choices more viable or to ameliorate the negative societal effects of the poor choices.

I'm in 100% agreement with you that something should be done - I just think the causes are deeper routed than a lack of sex education, and those causes must be tackled if there's going to be any difference. I think a lot of pregnancies occur with the full knowledge of the facts of life - the mistake they make is thinking their current relationship is going to last when they don't have the where-with-all to stick out difficult times (and existing in a culture of high divorce, there's hardly any good examples of how to make a relationship last, or at least make people think twice). I think also society OKs single parenthood too quickly as well, and certainly no-fault divorce has been abused to a large extent, from its original purpose (it's mainly used unilaterally these days).
posted by FieldingGoodney at 11:08 AM on October 8, 2005


(just after reading funambulist's last post).

I agree with most of what you're saying there funambulist - Just to be clear, I'm not against sex education - bring it on - I just think there's a big danger of complacency to think it will make a big difference to the number of unwed single mothers. I think the thread is going off on a tangent a little bit with this focus on sex education - the problem lies with the break-up of relationships a lot more than the getting pregnant. If you look at the number of pregnancies overall in the west, they're actually going DOWN considerably. However, marriage rates are low in relativity to the divorce rate - overall, it could be said that people aren't taking the actual relationship as seriously as they used to - the simple solution is for people to work through relationship problems with more discipline and determination - ahh, but that often requires good family support and good examples of relationships that have done just that - a virtuous circle. In parts of the UK, it's clear (to me anyway!), that the opposite often happens - a couple without any extended family support, and only bad examples of relationships around them - hardly motivating forces to encourage them to stick together.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 11:42 AM on October 8, 2005


If LittleMissCranky and delmoi have not said everything I could in this thread at least as well as I could say it I ain't found that out yet. Kudos, youse.
posted by davy at 12:24 PM on October 8, 2005


I don't know Fielding, I think the getting pregnant when you're too young and can't afford it part is much more relevant than marriage because "unwed single mothers" means anything from teenageers in council estates to Kate Moss and the Duchess of York, and no one would say they or their children are facing the same situation. It all depends on the social and economic background. Even without considering the uber-rich, if you're relatively well off, have a job, a family who helps you, and access to childcare (private or not) then you can provide for your kid on your own even if you split with the daddy or he was never around in the first place. If you're 15 and poor and you got pregnant accidentally because you were careless or maybe even on purpose because you thought it was cool and you had nothing else in your life, then it's very different. That's why those government programmes are targeted at the latter group, not the former.

The article Postroad linked is all about marriage as that alone solved all economic issues and guaranteed the best environment for the child, always, regardless of the situation. It's not so. You can have all sorts of different cases. The teenage pregnancy case is not "fixed" by marriage. A lot of the time there won't even be a proper relationship to start with. If anything, I think the problem with divorce is not that people divorce too easily, but that they can get married far too easily. And getting married young only because of a child is not one of the best reasons or guarantees of stability.

In the end though, the only thing a state can be concerned with is not about ideals or moral judgements on people's behaviour but pragmatic approaches to the cases that do have a social and economic cost on society.
posted by funambulist at 2:36 AM on October 9, 2005


By the way, there's a piece in the Guardian in response to the study, with the views of parents about their experiences with childcare.
posted by funambulist at 2:57 AM on October 9, 2005


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