Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Marriage, sexual complementarity and difference

Some more thoughts generated by Maggie Gallagher's guest-blogging at The Volokh Conspiracy.

In one of her posts, Gallagher writes:

SS couples are being added to the mix precisely in order to assure that society views them as “no different” than other couples.

To this, one of the commenters responds:

This seems as close as we'll get to a candid admission that her opposition to SSM is actually all about keeping them homos subjegated. (sic)

So here's a question. Is it bigoted to regard same-sex relationships -- even aside from the issue of procreation -- as different to male-female relationships?

The belief that men and women are profoundly different is common in American culture. (Just look at the popularity of John Gray's "men are from Mars, women are from Venus" cottage industry.) Even in liberal segments of society, talk of sexual difference, once frowned upon as anti-feminist, has become socially acceptable again (unless done in a way that seems to justify inequality for women, as Harvard president Lawrence Summers painfully learned). Despite overwhelming support for female achievement in the public sphere and career opportunities for women, the majority of Americans still embrace a degree of sex-role traditionalism. Even in liberal California, 69% of all parents surveyed by the Los Angeles Times in 1999 believed that it's "much better" for the family if it's the mother who stays home with young children (though 70% also felt it was acceptable for the father to be the stay-at-home parent).

All this raises the question: to what extent do many people see sexual differentiation and sexual complementarity as an essential feature of marriage and family?

Personally, I think that sex difference is vastly overhyped in our culture today. I believe that men and women are far more alike that different -- not that "everyone is the same," but that the individual variations within each sex vastly eclipse the differences between the sexes. But that's me.

Andrew Sullivan, on the other hand, strongly believes that biology -- specifically, testosterone -- makes men and women radically different: ambition, risk-taking, action, competitiveness and aggression are male traits, while empathy, patience, the desire for stability, and interest in relationships are essentially female. In his April 2000 New York Times essay on the subject, Andrew allows for individual differences and variations, but he also makes it clear that in his view, men and women overall approach and experience the world in deeply and fundamentally different ways.

I admire Andrew's writings on homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and I find a lot of his arguments very powerful and persuasive. But I see a basic contradiction between his strong belief in deep, important, innate differences between the sexes and his equally passionate belief that same-sex relationships should be treated as fully equivalent to male-female ones. After all, if men and women are so different, then isn't there at least some rational basis for believing that one goal and one essential element of marriage is to bring these two profoundly different halves of humanity together in family units based on a mix, and a balance, of male and female traits?

In fact, I suspect that the belief in sexual complementarity underlies many people's support for civil unions but not full marriage for same-sex couples. So I ask again: If someone fully accepts same-sex relationships and does not regard them as either "icky" or immoral but also believes that sexual complementarity, biological and psychological, makes male-female unions unique and deserving of special cultural recognition, is that person a bigot?

Incidentally, this is a basic difference between the legalization of same-sex marriage and the repeal of the ban on interracial marriage, a parallel that often comes up in this debate. The traditional language of marriage is steeped in sexual dualism: we can speak of a couple and identify each partner by gender or gendered role, not name. ("The husband works in a bank, the wife is a schoolteacher.") Interracial marriage does not challenge this dualism. Same-sex marriage obviously does. In fact, after SSM was legalized in Massachusetts, marriage license forms were changed, eliminating the words "husband" and "wife" and replacing them with "Spouse A" and "Spouse B."

To traditionalists, this change is undoubtedly appalling: it symbolizes the official adoption of a literally neutered version of marriage, as well as its downgrading to a bureaucratic formality. I myself don't think too many people care about what's written in their marriage licenses. And yet if same-sex couples are justified in seeking official affirmation that their unions are equal to heterosexual ones, aren't traditional couples justified in seeking official affirmation of the gendered nature of their marriages?

I think, too, that this is a part of Maggie Gallagher's concern when she frets that the legalization of same-sex marriage will attach the stigma of bigotry to defenders of traditional marriage. At present, defenders of traditional male-female roles may be seen as old-fashioned, but they are not seen as bigots (in part, perhaps, because women are just as likely as men to endorse such roles). The use of racial analogies in the discussion of same-sex marriage, on the other hand, threatens to place the traditional view of marriage beyond the pale.

Again, the views I am defending are by and large not my own. I don't think that men are inferior to women in relational skills or that women are less competitive than men; or rather, I think that whatever innate sex differences exist in these areas are flexible and outweighed by individual differences. I don't think that "gender-neutral parenting" is a danger to the family. I do believe that the interplay of maleness and femaleness -- more as intangible "energies" than specific psychological traits -- creates a unique and valuable dynamic. (In a purely biological sense, human beings do come in two basic kinds -- male and female -- making the male/female couple a microcosm of humanity.) But in my view, that doesn't make the mutual commitment of two women or two men any less genuine or less deserving.

My point is that there is a legitimate debate here, not just the forces of bigotry aligned against equality and civil rights.


Revenant said...

to what extent do many people see sexual differentiation and sexual complementarity as an essential feature of marriage and family?

I think most people strongly (and, I suspect, biologically) identify with having both a mother and a father. A lot of opposition to gay adoption comes from a gut feeling that an extra father doesn't make up for the loss of a mother, and an extra mother doesn't make up for a missing father. Personally, I share that feeling; I can't imagine not having father or a mother as being anything but bad.
But the statistics I've seen (inasmuch as it has been possible to gather much data on the subject thus far) indicate that the effect isn't actually that great, and certainly nowhere near as bad as the effect of legal arrangements like open marriages or single motherhood, so I don't see any good reason for banning gays from being parents, either naturally or by adoption.

Oh, and chalk me up as a person who thinks women are better with kids than men are, and men more aggressive and outgoing that women. Heck, if they weren't the Theory of Evolution would really have some explaining to do -- you'd think that a thousand generations of women being the primary caregivers and men being the hunters and warriors would have had some effect, wouldn't you?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post regarding whether people can be against SSM and not be a bigot. I truly believe that's is sometimes the case.

But I think it is fairly rare. You and Maggie Gallagher, and others, have posted an exceedingly interesting and detailed discussion about the roles of men and women, what procreation has to do with it, where adoptions fit in all this, whether there are differences between men and women and so on. But really, the vast majority of people on both sides of the issue haven't given any of those arguments even a look-see.

I think most people, and I know this is a generalization but I'll say it anyway, most people are who are against gay marriage are against it because they have an idea of what marriage is, and gays don't factor into it, or because they just dislike gays on some level, and are against any rights for us.

Yes, yes, yes -- not ALL opponents think that way, and there are plenty of exceptions. But just listen to these people, read their letters, see their posts on websites, and that's what it often comes down to. To me, that screams 'fear of the unknown.'

And in that respect, it IS just like interracial marriage. 80% of Americans were against interracial marriage after the Supreme Court struck down those laws prohibiting it. Why? Why would anyone be against interracial marriage? Were every one of those people just bigots? Probably not -- there were some people who generally liked blacks, but maybe had a concern about children of a mixed race and how they would fit into society. But I'll bet you the great majority of people against interracial marriage just thought it was somehow 'wrong.' And that's exactly what I often see in today's debate.

And in both debates, religion finds itself smack dab in the center of it all. Ain't that interesting?

thecobrasnose said...

While I support civil unions, when a government decrees what marriage is the propensity to abuse traditional believers grows. In Canada, ministers who preach from the bible have been prosecuted for promoting hate speech. A man who declined to print fliers for a gay event was similarly charged.

Furthermore, if SSM becomes the law of the land, any traditional religious organization that doesn't offer same sex benefits would automatically be in violation. I don't believe these sorts of organizations should be compelled to accept something that is anathema to them.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post!

I completely agree with you about the contradiction in Sullivan's views... I side with you that gender differences are real, but "overhyped" as you put it... individuals make all such stereotypes rather unimportant. I think there is also a lot of idealization and fantasy about the male-female dynamic. I look around at the marriages of my heterosexual friends and I see so many different kinds of dynamics that have nothing to do with the semi-mystical duality of male-female (though I think it's great if someone else is experiencing that.) Most of my straight friends see their relationship as a partnership of equals, their parenting is pretty 50-50 except for breast-feeding, and I would venture to say they see my long-term relationship with another man in exactly the same way they look at each other's relationships.

Anonymous said...

Obviously anyone who believes so strongly that heterosexuality has a mystical superiority is welcome to be exclusively heterosexual. They can look down and snub my second-rate marriage if they want, hey, it's a free country.

Also the comparison with the ban of inter-racial marriage is interesting not because the rationale is the same -- but the rhetoric is so strikingly similar. Read up on the anti-miscegenation movement well into our century and it is clear that to them the separation of the races was a principle as well-grounded in religion and history and the cosmos as the distinction between the sexes.

Now that doesn't necessarily invalidate the anti-SSM movement - but it does make one question the permanence of seemingly immutable values.

Peter Hoh said...

Short answer: no, I don't think it's bigoted to regard same-sex relationships as different than male-female relationships.

For starters, I think that the bigot label should be saved for the flaming bigots. Accusing middle-ground folks of being bigots won't move them toward your position.

Take, for instance, Maggie's claim that male-male couples do not regard fidelity the same way that male-female couples regard fidelity. There's the faint odor of bigotry, but I'd rather challenge the statement than attack the person making the statement.

Such a statement rests on the idea that all couples in a particular category think (or act) alike, and this is simply not true.

And this gets to the heart of the matter. I think it's damned near impossible to make generalizations about relationships, be they male-female, female-female, or male-male.

Well, there's one clear exception that springs to mind: no same-sex couple enters a marriage or relationship because of an unplanned pregnancy.

As for the other issue raised in this post, some of what seems like sexual complementarity is a natural outgrowth of the process by which two people sort out their differences. If all of the couples we observe are male-female, then we may make generalizations that might seem hard to apply to a same-sex relationship. But if we're honest, male-female couples have found a wide variety of ways to sort out their differences and complement each other.

Some of this complementarity arises not from gender differences, but from taking on certain roles. I've been a stay-at-home dad for the past decade. Part of who I am now -- and the way in which I fit into my marriage -- rises out of my experience being home and taking care of babies.

Revenant said...

Also the comparison with the ban of inter-racial marriage is interesting not because the rationale is the same -- but the rhetoric is so strikingly similar.

I'd be careful about drawing those sorts of parallels. It could just as easily and accurately be said that there are striking parallels between the rhetoric of gay marriage proponents and the rhetoric NAMBLA uses to argue in favor of legalized child rape -- references to being denied their rights, talk of forming loving relationships, insistence that their lifestyle is normal and healthy for all involved... get the picture?

The rhetoric may be similar, but the intent most definitely is not. Most of the opposition to gay marriage comes not from homophobia, but from the simple fact that virtually every person in America is the child of one woman and one man, as were their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, and so on, and so on, for about the last two thousand years. Add in the fact that the religion the overwhelming majority of Americans belong to teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman. Then add in the fact that the past forty years have seen an endless parade of special-interest groups demanding special treatment for often cynical reasons. Mix well, sprinkle with a dash of inherent human resistance to change, and it is profoundly unsurprising that most people oppose gay marriage, polygamy, and every other social arrangement that doesn't involve one woman and one man.

Understand that, from many American's perspective, there are two options here. One is to meddle with the basis of our entire social structure, and the other is to continue refusing to grant 3% of the population a privledge they've been denied for pretty much all of history. You aren't going to convince them you're right by calling them bigots -- all that does is convince them that you don't give a rat's ass about the risks inherent in meddling with social structures, and are motivated solely by the thought "gimme gimme gimme gimme gimme". You should, instead, focus on demonstrating that the risks involved are not that bad, and are exceeded by the potential benefits.

Anonymous said...

revenant -- I didn't call anyone bigots, though I don't think that you have to be paranoid to think there a lot of people in this country who disapprove of homosexuality and/or feel repulsion towards homosexuals (the definition of homophobia.)

I think your comparison with child rape is befuddling. Sure, you could caricature anything to sound like anything, but I was being much more specific in my comparison. I wasn't just being negative about opposition to SSM, I was trying to make a point about changing values.

The opposition to miscegenation was as deeply felt eighty years ago, perhaps even forty years ago in many years. To you (and me) the difference in rationality between the two arguments seems clear-cut. But to the vast majority of the people in this country once, the same arguments about history and religion were made -- and anti-miscegenation laws felt just as passionately real and important to them as anti-SSM to its advocates today.

I'm happy to discuss the potential benefits and negative aspects of SSM, but truthfully I'm a bit bored with it... I've heard it discussed ad nauseum... A lot of the arguments contra seem based on shibolleths.. I don't find any of the opposition particularly compelling except the Burkean appeal to tradition which I understand completely... don't mess with social institutions for fear of the unknown damage.. that to my point of view is the best argument against SSM....

And I think the debate over interracial marriage and the arguments used are very instructive.

I could show you a million ways why the arguments for child rape have logically nothing in common with the argument for consensual adult homosexual relationships. The appeal against SSM is primarily based on religion (God/Nature intended it this way) or history (

Anonymous said...

"All this raises the question: to what extent do many people see sexual differentiation and sexual complementarity as an essential feature of marriage and family?"

Cathy, I will cease commenting on your weblog after this, because you are quite hopeless.

Reading your bizarre, humorless and pathetically arrogant writing in which you've arrogated to yourself the role of God raises real questions about whether women really are competent to be in the public sphere. Can you explain why you are doing this? Who nominated you to imagine an ideal world according to your whims?

We'd be better of if you were married, pregnant and barefoot and at home doing the dishes.

Ghastly stuff, Cathy.

Find a man, Cathy. This is incredible spoiled brat raving. Find something, anything, to humble yourself before. You've got too much time on your hands.

Adieu. Perhaps we shouldn't have given women a right to vote. Maybe it's time to send them home. Your writing is a very convincing argument that we've made a mistake in "liberating" women.

Jonah said...

The problem with your argument is the assumption that all men fall into the general idea of masculinity and all women fall into the general idea of femininity, and that's not the case. Studies don't show that all women think/act one way, and all men another way. By simple virtue of gender, you can only make an educated guess. Gay people often don't fall along gender lines quite as accurately as the rest of society. See Simon LeVay's Queer Science.
There are plenty of great stay at home dads (I had one), and that's because not even all heteros fall along gender lines very well.

Revenant said...

I don't think that you have to be paranoid to think there a lot of people in this country who disapprove of homosexuality and/or feel repulsion towards homosexuals (the definition of homophobia.)

That doesn't mean that their opposition to gay marriage is based in homophobia, though. Take racism, for example -- wouldn't you agree that the percentage of Americans who would support a ban on allowing black people to marry each other is much, much smaller than the percentage of Americans who harbor racial animus towards blacks? I'm pretty sure that even the average Klan member thinks black people should be allowed to marry other black people.

I wasn't just being negative about opposition to SSM, I was trying to make a point about changing values.

I was primarily responding to the guilt-by-association part of your argument. I agree that values change over time, but I don't see the relevance of that observation, since values do not necessarily change in a good way. For example, miscegenation gained acceptance, but so did having children out of wedlock. The former change was, in my opinion, clearly very good, but the latter was clearly very bad. So I'm not sure what conclusion you think can be drawn, here.

I could show you a million ways why the arguments for child rape have logically nothing in common with the argument for consensual adult homosexual relationships.

Only by first establishing axioms, such as "children are incapable of giving consent", that make your conclusion inevitable. Of course, many social conservatives logically prove that gay relationships are bad by first establishling axioms like "gay people aren't really consenting, because they suffer from mental illness".

Anonymous said...

If someone fully accepts same-sex relationships and does not regard them as either "icky" or immoral but also believes that sexual complementarity, biological and psychological, makes male-female unions unique and deserving of special cultural recognition, is that person a bigot?

No. But that person should be quite clear about the proper role of the government in that recognition.

I think self-interest (and bigotry, to a lesser extent) are better explanations for the overinclusion of non-reproductive MF couples in the benefits of government marriage than Maggie's "signaling" theory.

Anonymous said...


I don't think your argument against Andrew Sullivan's position makes much sense. I think he would say that the relevant question is not whether men and women are different, but whether they are different in ways that justify the exclusion of single-sex couples from marriage.

And even if it is true that there is something uniquely valuable, even when the couple is infertile, about the male-female complementarity of conventional marriage, there may also be something uniquely valuable in the nature of same-sex marriage. Perhaps each type of marriage has unique strengths, just as (perhaps) each sex does. Why should we regard the relationship between the two types as superior/inferior rather than just different?

Anonymous said...

To mess with the traditional social structure of society has far reaching negative effects, period. We have seen this come true with no fault divorce social engineering. This is the true correlational argument that should be used to advocate against SSM, not black/white marriages. No fault divorce was supposed to allow "victims" to get out of bad unhappy marriages. If the mom or dad would be happier divorced, well, that could only be good for the children. A recent research study published "The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce" by Elizabeth Marquardt has shown(again) that children are better off with two unhappy male/female parents than with two separated happy parents. With the advent of no-fault divorce, children were no longer allowed to grow up with their biological or adopted male/female parents. This is what has become of them: 2/3 of all divorces are initiated by mothers; 4 out of 5 divorced mothers move the children away from the father within 4 years of the divorce; < 10% of all divorced dads are truly "deadbeat", < 6% of all marriages end due to cruel or abusive behavior; yet, 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes
--U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census
85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes
--Center for Disease Control
80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes
--Criminal Justice and Behavior, Vol. 14, p. 403-26
71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes
--National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools
70% of juveniles in state operated institutions come from fatherless homes
--U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report Sept., 1988
85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home
--Fulton County Georgia jail populations & Texas Dept. of Corrections, 1992
Translated, this means that children from a fatherless home are:
5 times more likely to commit suicide
32 times more likely to run away
20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders
14 times more likely to commit rape
9 times more likely to drop out of school
10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances
9 times more likely to end up in a state operated institution
20 times more likely to end up in prison
There are: 11,268,000 total U.S. custodial mothers and 2,907,000 total U.S. custodial fathers
--Current Population Reports, U.S. Bureau of the Census, Series P-20, No. 458, 1991
In a study of 700 adolescents, researchers found that "compared to families with two natural parents living in the home, adolescents from single-parent families have been found to engage in greater and earlier sexual activity."
Source: Carol W. Metzler, et al. "The Social Context for Risky Sexual Behavior Among Adolescents", Journal of Behavioral Medicine 17 (1994).
"Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy, and criminality."
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics, Survey on Child Health, Washington, DC, 1993.
"Teenagers living in single-parent households are more likely to abuse alcohol and at an earlier age compared to children reared in two-parent households."
Source: Terry E. Duncan, Susan C. Duncan and Hyman Hops, "The Effects of Family Cohesiveness and Peer Encouragement on the Development of Adolescent Alcohol Use: A Cohort-Sequential Approach to the Analysis of Longitudinal Data", Journal of Studies on Alcohol 55 (1994).
"...the absence of the father in the home affects significantly the behavior of adolescents and results in the greater use of alcohol and marijuana."
Source: Deane Scott Berman "Risk Factors Leading to Adolescent Substance Abuse", Adolescence 30 (1995)
A study of 156 victims of child sexual abuse found that the majority of the children came from disrupted or single-parent homes; only 31 percent of the children lived with both biological parents. Although stepfamilies make up only about 10 percent of all families, 27 percent of the abused children lived with either a stepfather or the mother's boyfriend.
Source: Beverly Gomes-Schwartz, Jonathan Horowitz, and Albert P. Cardarelli, "Child Sexual Abuse Victims and Their Treatment", U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justce and Delinquency Prevention.
Researchers in Michigan determined that "49 percent of all child abuse cases are committed by single mothers."
Source: Joan Ditson and Sharon Shay, "A Study of Child Abuse in Lansing, Michigan", Child Abuse and Neglect, 8 (1984).
"A family structure index -- a composite index based on the annual rate of children involved in divorce and the percentage of families with children present that are female-headed -- is a strong predictor of suicide among young adult and adolescent white males."
Source: Patricia L. McCall and Kenneth C. Land, "Trends in White Male Adolescent, Young-Adult and Elderly Suicide: Are There Common Underlying Structural Factors?" Social Science Research 23, 1994.
" Fatherless children are at dramatically greater risk of suicide."
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics, Survey on Child Health, Washington, DC, 1993.
In a study of 146 adolescent friends of 26 adolescent suicide victims, teens living in single-parent families are not only more likely to commit suicide but also more likely to suffer from psychological disorders, when compared to teens living in intact families.
Source: David A. Brent, et al. "Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in Peers of Adolescent Suicide Victims: Predisposing Factors and Phenomenology.", Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 34, 1995.
"Boys who grow up in father-absent homes are more likely that those in father-present homes to have trouble establishing appropriate sex roles and gender identity."
Source: P.L. Adams, J.R. Milner, and N.A. Schrepf, "Fatherless Children", New York, Wiley Press, 1984.
"In 1988, a study of preschool children admitted to New Orleans hospitals as psychiatric patients over a 34-month period found that nearly 80 percent came from fatherless homes."
Source: Jack Block, et al. "Parental Functioning and the Home Environment in Families of Divorce", Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 27 (1988)
"Children living with a never-married mother are more likely to have been treated for emotional problems."
Source: L. Remez, "Children Who Don't Live with Both Parents Face Behavioral Problems," Family Planning Perspectives (January/February 1992).
Children reared by a divorced or never-married mother are less cooperative and score lower on tests of intelligence than children reared in intact families. Statistical analysis of the behavior and intelligence of these children revealed "significant detrimental effects " of living in a female-headed household. Growing up in a female-headed household remained a statistical predictor of behavior problems even after adjusting for differences in family income.
Source: Greg L. Duncan, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and Pamela Kato Klebanov, "Economic Deprivation and Early Childhood Development", Child Development 65 (1994).
"Compared to peers in two-parent homes, black children in single-parent households are more likely to engage in troublesome behavior, and perform poorly in school."
Source: Tom Luster and Hariette Pipes McAdoo, "Factors Related to the Achievement and Adjustment of Young African-American Children.", Child Development 65 (1994): 1080-1094
"Even controlling for variations across groups in parent education, race and other child and family factors, 18- to 22-year-olds from disrupted families were twice as likely to have poor relationships with their mothers and fathers, to show high levels of emotional distress or problem behavior, [and] to have received psychological help."
Source: Nicholas Zill, Donna Morrison, and Mary Jo Coiro, "Long Term Effects of Parental Divorce on Parent-Child Relationships, Adjustment and Achievement in Young Adulthood", Journal of Family Psychology 7 (1993).
"Children with fathers at home tend to do better in school, are less prone to depression and are more successful in relationships. Children from one-parent families achieve less and get into trouble more than children from two parent families."
Source: One Parent Families and Their Children: The School's Most Significant Minority, conducted by The Consortium for the Study of School Needs of Children from One Parent Families, co sponsored by the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the Institute for Development of Educational Activities, a division of the Charles F. Kettering Foundation, Arlington, VA., 1980
"Children whose parents separate are significantly more likely to engage in early sexual activity, abuse drugs, and experience conduct and mood disorders. This effect is especially strong for children whose parents separated when they were five years old or younger."
Source: David M. Fergusson, John Horwood and Michael T. Lynsky, "Parental Separation, Adolescent Psychopathology, and Problem Behaviors", Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 33 (1944)
"Compared to peers living with both biological parents, sons and daughters of divorced or separated parents exhibited significantly more conduct problems. Daughters of divorced or separated mothers evidenced significantly higher rates of internalizing problems, such as anxiety or depression."
Source: Denise B. Kandel, Emily Rosenbaum and Kevin Chen, "Impact of Maternal Drug Use and Life Experiences on Preadolescent Children Born to Teenage Mothers", Journal of Marriage and the Family56 (1994).
"Father hunger " often afflicts boys age one and two whose fathers are suddenly and permanently absent. Sleep disturbances, such as trouble falling asleep, nightmares, and night terrors frequently begin within one to three months after the father leaves home.
Source: Alfred A. Messer, "Boys Father Hunger: The Missing Father Syndrome", Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, January 1989.
"Children of never-married mothers are more than twice as likely to have been treated for an emotional or behavioral problem."
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interiew Survey, Hyattsille, MD, 1988
A 1988 Department of Health and Human Services study found that at every income level except the very highest (over $50,000 a year), children living with never-married mothers were more likely than their counterparts in two-parent families to have been expelled or suspended from school, to display emotional problems, and to engage in antisocial behavior.
Source: James Q. Wilson, "In Loco Parentis: Helping Children When Families Fail Them", The Brookings Review, Fall 1993.
In a longitudinal study of 1,197 fourth-grade students, researchers observed "greater levels of aggression in boys from mother-only households than from boys in mother-father households."
Source: N. Vaden-Kierman, N. Ialongo, J. Pearson, and S. Kellam, "Household Family Structure and Children's Aggressive Behavior: A Longitudinal Study of Urban Elementary School Children", Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 23, no. 5 (1995).
"Children from mother-only families have less of an ability to delay gratification and poorer impulse control (that is, control over anger and sexual gratification.) These children also have a weaker sense of conscience or sense of right and wrong."
Source: E.M. Hetherington and B. Martin, "Family Interaction " in H.C. Quay and J.S. Werry (eds.), Psychopathological Disorders of Childhood. (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1979)
"Eighty percent of adolescents in psychiatric hospitals come from broken homes."
Source: J.B. Elshtain, "Family Matters... ", Christian Century, July 1993.
The idea of SSM is much like the idea of no fault divorce: it is about you - what can this country do for you. This is the definitive paradigm shift to narcissism in this country. The fact is, it's not all about you and your happiness and your self proclaimed rights. It's actually about your responsibility to the next generation - to the children of this country. Children are more important than you. Children do best in a two parent male/female family. Children do worse in a sole mother, sole father or some other set up "family." We, as a country have an obligation to them, not to you or to ourselves. It's like JFK's famouse quote "ask not what can my country do for me, ask what can I do for my country." A strong central traditional family is a strong country. This is not bigotry or judgement, it's just plain old 'actions and consequences' being recorded for you to see the results of past social engineering effects. Do with them at your will but don't be surprised to see a negative outcome, it isn't all going to be positive. To do advocate SSM and play the "find out and see" approach is playing russian roulette with childrens lives. No fault divorce has already shown how horrid this approach is for children.

Cathy Young said...


It seems to me that if the sexes are so radically different (and I reiterate: I don't believe they are), one can make a legitimate argument that: (1) a healthy family requires a balance/mix of both male and female qualities (under this theory, a child raised by two moms will be coddled to death, while a child raised by two dads will suffer from a severe deficit of nurturing); and (2) one of the social purposes of marriage is to bring men and women together. I'm not saying this argument is necessarily right. But I think it needs to be taken into serious consideration.


A word of advice; if you make lengthy posts filled with stats and citations, chances are, people won't read them or will skim them at best.

The stats on fatherlessness that you give in your post can be found compiled on various webpages. I suggest that next time you simply give a link to one of those pages.

Incidentally, while I sympathize with your point about the importance of fathers, I think those stats are severely flawed because they do not disaggregate the effect of fatherlessness from the effects of other factors, most notably socioeconomic status. Single motherhood in this country is primarily concentrated in the underclass. As readers of my blog and my other work will know, I have grave reservations about the phenomenon of single motherhood by choice -- but I don't think that it's the children of middle-class single women who are filling those jails.

Gays and lesbians make a tiny percentage of the population. If our aim is to reduce the negative effects of fatherlessness, shouldn't we be trying to discourage divorce and single motherhood instead of worrying about SSM?

observer said...

'many social conservatives logically prove that gay relationships are bad by first establishling axioms like "gay people aren't really consenting, because they suffer from mental illness".'

Revenant, are you serious? Does this seem axiomatic to you? In fact this is an empirical question that has already been answered repeatedly: there is absolutely no proof from dozens of scientific studies that homosexuality is any kind of mental illness. A recent review was published in the Annual Review of Clinical Psychology and you might want to have a look at it:

The fact is that your analogy between SSM and child rape is exceedingly poor, and while I don't think the analogy between SSM and interracial marriage is that good either, it's certainly far stronger than yours.

I really want to take the anti-SSM view seriously, but frankly if you people keep making statements like this, you're just going to hurt your own credibility.