Monday, May 16, 2011

Want to protect children? Promote marriage and discourage cohabitation

Suffer the Little Children: Cohabitation and the Abuse of America’s Children
In just one month last year, Tyari Smith Sr. of suburban New Orleans shot and killed his 2-year-old son, Tyari Smith Jr., and his girlfriend, Marie Chavez, because she was considering leaving him and heading back home to California. A week later, 4-month-old Aiden Caro was thrown into a couch by his mother’s boyfriend, Samuel Harris, when Harris could not get him to stop crying. Shortly thereafter, the Louisville baby stopped crying forever. The next week, in Gaston, South Carolina, 5-month-old Joshua Dial was shaken by his mother’s boyfriend “in a manner so violent that the baby immediately lost consciousness and suffered severe brain trauma,” according to local police reports. Joshua died soon thereafter.

Are these tragic cases of fatal child abuse around the nation in one month just random expressions of the dark side of the human condition? Not according to a recent federal study of child abuse and neglect, the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect.

This new federal study indicates that these cases are simply the tip of the abuse iceberg in American life. According to the report ... one of the most dangerous places for a child in America to find himself in is a home that includes an unrelated male boyfriend—especially when that boyfriend is left to care for a child by himself.

But children living with their own father and mother do not fare much better if their parents are only cohabiting. The federal study of child abuse found that children living with their cohabiting parents are more than four times more likely to be sexually, physically, or emotionally abused than their peers living in a home headed by their married parents. And they are three times more likely to be physically, emotionally, or educationally neglected than children living with their married biological parents. ....

This latest study confirms what a mounting body of social science has been telling us for some time now. .... For instance, a 2005 study of fatal child abuse in Missouri found that children living with their mother’s boyfriends were more than 45 times more likely to be killed than were children living with their married mother and father.


One reason that children do not tend to thrive in cohabiting households, besides the abuse factor, is that these homes are much more unstable than are married households. One recent University of Michigan study found that children born to cohabiting parents were 119 percent more likely to see their parents break up than children born to married parents. ....

In the case of mom moving in with boyfriend I think it's largely a causal relationship -- mom choosing to live with an abuser, whether she recognizes him as an abuser or not.

The higher abuse rate among children of unmarried cohabitators versus married couples is probably caused by the same character flaws that make the people unwilling to marry in the first place -- an unwillingness to fully commit to another person's well being regardless of how you're feeling at the moment.

I've blogged about these tragedies before:

July 2010 -- Woman lets guy she'd been living with for six weeks babysit.

November 2009 -- Man who had already killed one of his kids murders mother and child.

(HT: Secular Heretic)


Smiley said...

thank you for your pro-life witness, I am linking your blog to mine.

Katie said...

No big surprise, sadly. Side-track: The ped at the hospital after our 3rd was born kept going on about shaken baby syndrome and said, "Well you know, it's not usually the mom, it's usually the boyfriend." To which I replied, "Well my HUSBAND didn't have any problems with our first two, so I'm not anticipating him shaking this one." The ped says, "OH! They all have the same father?" as if he was totally shocked. I was pretty offended at the assumption that because I was relatively young (25) and on my third baby I must a harlot or something, but I guess that's probably pretty common??

Christina Dunigan said...

It's not so much harlotry that is leaving these women with a bunch of babies with different men. It's a hunger for affirmation. Boyfriend #1 showers her with attention and makes her feel important and loved. He bails after the baby comes. With her self-image now even further damaged, she searches for another man to make her feel important and loved. She ends up pregnant again and abandoned again. And of course, as the children accumulate, the quality of the man she attracts deteriorates and she becomes more and more likely to attract an utter loser who is drug-addled and violent.

They get stuck in the vicious circle, largely because we have a culture that considers being "hot" the most important reflection on your worth. Being chaste, sensible, responsible, hard-working, diligent... these are all presented as being for fuddy-duddies and nerds that nobody will want because they're "no fun."