Table of Contents
I. The Decline of the American Family
II. The Cost of Fatherlessness
III. The Increase in Single-Parent Families
More Births Out of Wedlock
High Divorce Rate
IV. Guiding Principles for Strengthening Traditional Families
V. The Need to Strengthen Traditional Families
1. Traditional Families are our Most Important Social Resource
Two-parent families composed of a man and a woman united by marriage and by a mutual commitment to raising their biological or adopted children are the foundation of a healthy society. No other public or private social institution can compare with the tremendously positive impact that traditional families have upon the society around them. Traditional families produce more productive citizens, lower crime rates, lower rates of child poverty, more stable communities, and less drain on the social welfare system of our Commonwealth.
2. Children Have the Best Chance of Success in a Traditional Family
Social science research strongly indicates that children have the best chance of success when they are raised by a mother and a father in an intact family. Although a small minority of traditional families are seriously dysfunctional, the vast majority of traditional families provide the best environment for raising children to become healthy and responsible citizens.
3. Traditional Families are Vital to the Social and Economic Health of Massachusetts
The social and economic costs of family decline, particularly fatherlessness, are legion. Intergenerational poverty, academic failure, crime and violence plague our children and our communities when the traditional family breaks down. Massachusetts taxpayers then bear an enormous financial burden from attempts, often in vain, to ameliorate this failing through government spending alone.
4. Parents Should Be the Primary Care Givers and Educators in Their Children’s Lives
Parents have the primary responsibility to provide for and protect the physical, emotional, psychological, and intellectual health and well-being of their children. They also have the right not to have that role challenged or usurped unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the physical, emotional or psychological health of the child is in imminent danger.
5. Public Policies that Strengthen Traditional Families Strengthen All of Society
Social science research strongly indicates that a wide range of social pathologies are directly related to a decline in the percentage of traditional families. For this reason, public policies that strengthen traditional families simultaneously strengthen all of society. Indeed, government has a compelling interest in pursuing public policies that strengthen traditional families because of the social benefits that traditional families provide to our entire society.
6. State Welfare Agencies are a Poor Substitute for Parents
In most sectors of the economy, state government agencies are a poor substitute for private enterprise. Similarly, in the vast majority of cases, parents are far better guardians of the health and well-being of their own children than any state government agency. For this reason, public policies that seek to replace parental authority with the impersonal authority of a government agency are harmful both to children and to the social prosperity and well-being of the Commonwealth.
7. The State Should Seek to Support Parents Rather Than Replace Them
The state government should do everything within its power to support parents in their social role as primary caregivers for their own children rather than seek to replace them. For example, state agencies should not use a limited delegation of parental authority over children (such as the limited delegation of authority over the education of children during school hours) to usurp parental authority in other areas.
8. No Legislation Should Be Passed Without Considering the Impact on Families
In the same manner that studies are prepared to evaluate the impact of proposed legislation on private enterprise or the environment, the government should carefully consider the impact that proposed legislation will have upon families. To this end, proposed legislation that may have a significant impact upon families should be accompanied by a “Family Impact Statement” which will explain the direct and indirect effects of the proposed policy on families in Massachusetts.