Marriage melt down: A fatherless America

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Family of five

By Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

The number of fatherless children is constantly on a rise in USA.  In 1960 17.5% of children were living without their fathers.  Despite the increase in medical technology and life expectancy, in 1990, 36.3% of children were living away from their fathers. David Blankenhorn calls this trend “Fatherless America” and “Fatherless society”.  What is the cause of this growing trend which is predicted to rise to 50% in the early part of the 21st century?  I will let the reader to judge for himself. David Blankenhorn in his book Fatherless America[i] traces the origins of youth violence, domestic violence against women, child sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy and many of the psychiatric problems in adolescents to broken families and fatherlessness.  In my opinion, the phenomenon of broken families and fatherlessness is closely related to loss of value of chastity in the society.

Let us examine some other consequences of broken family system.  Nathaniel Branden quotes, Robert Reasoner, former superintendent of a school district in California, in his book, Six pillars of self-esteem:

Over 50 percent of students have already seen a family change—a separation, a divorce, or a remarriage; in many districts, by high school 68 percent are not living with their two original parents. Twenty?four percent are born out of wedlock and have never known a father. Twenty?four percent are born bearing the residual effects of their mother’s abuse of drugs. In California, 25 percent will be either sexually or physically abused before they finish. high school. … Whereas in 1890, 90 percent of the children had grand­parents living in the home, and in 1950 40 percent living in the home, today the figure is down to 7 percent; so there is far less of a support system. As to the emotional life of young people, consider these fig­ures. Thirty to 50 percent will contemplate suicide. Fifteen percent will make a serious attempt to kill themselves. Forty?one percent drink heavily every two?three weaks. Ten percent of girls will become preg­nant before they finish high school. Thirty percent of boys and girls will drop out of school by the age of eighteen.[ii]

Another negative consequence of not valuing chastity is teen pregnancy.  The prevalence of teen pregnancy is on a rise.  Each year in USA 350,000 teen age girls have babies out of wedlock.  In 1994 the birth rate for unmarried teens was 46.4 per thousand girls as compared to 16.7 in 1965.[iii] It is common knowledge that teen pregnancy implies a life of deprivation both for the child and the mother.  In a personal communication with an Obstetrician, I found that majority of the children in many counties of USA are now born out of wedlock!

Few things hamper a child as much as not having a father at home. “As a feminist, I didn’t want to believe it,” says Maria Kefalas, a sociologist who studies marriage and family issues and co-authored a seminal book on low-income mothers called Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage. “Women always tell me, ‘I can be a mother and a father to a child,’ but it’s not true.” Growing up without a father has a deep psychological effect on a child. “The mom may not need that man,” Kefalas says, “but her children still do.”

This turns out to be true across the economic spectrum. The groundbreaking research on the effects of divorce on children from middle- and upper-income households comes from a surprising source: a Princeton sociologist and single mother named Sara McLanahan, who decided to study the fates of these children with the tacit assumption that once you control for income, being part of a single-parent household does not adversely affect kids. The results — which she published in the 1994 book Growing Up with a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps — were surprising. “Children who grow up in a household with only one biological parent,” she found, “are worse off, on average, than children who grow up in a household with both of their biological parents, regardless of the parents’ race or educational background.”

Children of divorced middle-class parents do less well in school and at college compared with underprivileged kids from two-parent households.

In America for the first time, a majority of American women are living without a spouse.  The New York Times, which based its report on an analysis of census results, said 51 percent of women in 2005 reported living without a spouse, up from 35 percent in 1950 and 49 percent in 2000.  It said that several factors are behind the shift including women marrying at a later age and living with partners for more often and for longer periods. Women are also living longer as widows and once divorced, often opt to stay single, the report said.

It’s dismissive of the human experience, says David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values, to suggest that kids don’t suffer, extraordinarily, from divorce: “Children have a primal need to know who they are, to love and be loved by the two people whose physical union brought them here. To lose that connection, that sense of identity, is to experience a wound that no child-support check or fancy school can ever heal.”

Adult men who grew up in single-parent households are twice as likely as other men to have been sexually abused during childhood, a U.S. study found in 2007.  That’s because parental absences in single-parent homes provide more opportunities for sexual predators to abuse children, the researchers found.  Dr. William C. Holmes, an assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine,  published the findings in the March 13 issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
“Children being raised by one parent are at a greater risk for many things as they grow up, including health risks such as poorly controlled diabetes and asthma. We now must add childhood sexual abuse to part of this risk picture,” study author said in a prepared statement.
Holmes noted that parental absence is common in single-parent homes because the single mother or father has to work to provide for the family. As a result, children may seek an adult with whom to share experiences and bond.  “Predators are pretty good at finding and grooming these sorts of kids. They set children up over time, earn their trust, act as parent-substitutes by giving them attention and sometimes gifts,” Holmes said.

That prompts the question, does the father have to actually be married to the mother of his children to have a positive effect on them? Robert Rector, a senior research fellow of domestic policy at the Heritage Foundation explains, “Not if he behaves exactly like a married man,” says Rector, “If a man is willing to contribute 70% of his income to the child’s upbringing, dedicate himself around the clock to the child’s well-being and create a stable home life — a home life that includes his actually living there with mother and child — he might be able to give his child the boon of fatherhood without having to tie the knot. But that rarely happens. When children are born into a co-habiting, unmarried relationship, says Rector, “they arrive in a family in which the principals haven’t resolved their most basic issues,” including those of sexual fidelity and how to share responsibilities. Let a little stress enter the picture — and what is more stressful than a baby? — and things start to fall apart. The new mother starts to make wife like demands on the man, and without the commitment of marriage, he is soon out the door.”[1]

Jesus Christ, may peace be upon him, gave a golden criterion to distinguish right from wrong.  He has given us a yard stick to judge different teachings. It is a general criterion and has a fairly wide application.  Jesus Christ had said:
By their fruits you will recognize them. Never do people gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles, do they? Likewise every good tree bears fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces worthless fruit; a good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, neither can a rotten tree produce fine fruit. (Matthew 7: 16?18)
 The tree of Western civilization bears many fruits.  Some of those are sweet and some of them are bitter.  This article is a discussion of the bitter fruits arising from free intermixing of sexes and so called emancipation of women, in the Western culture.  These values have led to what has been labeled as marriage melt down.  For the proper upbringing of happy and well balanced children a concerted effort by both the parents is necessary.  So this marriage melt down has created havoc with the society.
What is the best solution to all these problems related to broken homes, out of wedlock children and teen pregnancies?

The tree of Western civilization bears many fruits.  Some of those are sweet and some of them are bitter.  This article is a discussion of the bitter fruits arising from free intermixing of sexes and so called emancipation of women, in the Western culture.  These values have led to what has been labeled as marriage melt down.  For the proper upbringing of happy and well balanced children a concerted effort by both the parents is necessary.  So this marriage melt down has created havoc with the society.

What is the best solution to all these problems related to broken homes, out of wedlock children and teen pregnancies?  ‘Family values,’ historically have been established on the planet earth through religion and revelation.  The values pertaining to the relationship between the sexes have gone through various ups and downs in the history of mankind.  In Arabia before the advent of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsaw the social situation had degenerated to the point where men will marry the wives of their deceased fathers.  The situations in the Roman Empire or the Persian Empire were not much different. The Holy Quran established the sacredness of different relationships and with additional measures established family and social values in the Arab society.  The rising tide lifted all boats all over the world.

A few centuries earlier St. Augustine, around the turn of the 4th century, presented Christianity as God’s answer to the fall of the Roman Empire, which the sin of humans was affecting.[2]  What he preached about morality still remains true except that the dogmas of Christianity have lost their foundation[3][4] and its teachings have lost its influence on the hearts and minds of the people.  It has pursued the course of relativism so often in the last century that it has lost its moral compass!  Moreover, the teachings of Bible were neither universal nor for all times to come.  Levirate marriage was practiced in Old Testament times. If a man died leaving no male heir, his brother was required to marry his widow and produce children (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). This and other forms of polygamy were acceptable in Old Testament times, although only wealthy men could afford multiple wives. According to the Bible, King Solomon was the most notable polygamist with his 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3).

Today, women have been degraded into a mere instrument of sexual indulgence?  Society has taught them from early childhood that their physical looks are their main asset.  They are sexually harassed at work places.  A society where teenage pregnancies are on rise; rape, youth suicides and runaways are on a rise.  Adultery, divorce and broken homes are very common.  Every so often we hear of husbands killing their wives so that they do not have to pay alimonies.  Islam provided the only logical and sensible answer to all these problems almost 1400 years ago.  Islam’s approach is positive and proactive, not waiting for problems to occur and then trying to find solutions, but to stop them from happening. Islam’s approach is systematic. It addresses change in the entire society, not just in the individual.  Islam gives a system for producing and maintaining a social climate in a society that is conducive to allowing human beings to achieve the real goal of their creation which is the worship of God.

The Holy Quran has a vision to create a society, where men and women respect one another and help one another achieve nearness to God; where a woman does not need to compromise her dignity, her integrity and her self esteem at any time.

The Quranic teachings of modesty, chastity and other ‘family values’ will save the family structure of the human race.  Islam gives well balanced rights to women that are conducive to their modesty and ability to raise families, while providing for their other needs and endeavors, at the same time.  The false emancipation of women in the Western society has played havoc with the family structure in the west and most Western societies are unable to maintain their populations without immigration.  That perhaps is the reason for the Catholic Church’s obsession with the prohibition of contraception.  But such artificial measures can go so far and will fall on deaf ears.  The real solution lies in following the ‘family values’ of Islam that are visible in many successful Muslim families in the West.   Why Divine Law is necessary to establish family values in human society and to see some of the details of such laws see the commentary of chapter 24, Al Nur of the Holy Quran at this link.

Strict insistence on monogamy and obsession with the age of marriage are not the panacea to prop up the crumbling family structure in the West.  The solutions lie in the ‘family values’ of Islam.

In this article the intent is not to detail the teachings of Islam about family values, as those are covered extensively else where, but to show the negative consequences of not following the values of Islam.  The purpose of this article is to highlight the pressing need for family values, and what the Western civilization may be missing.  For the details of Islamic teachings different books and articles can be reviewed on Especially worthwhile in this regard will be a booklet by Sir Zafrulla Khan, Woman in Islam[5], recent articles, Chastity – Essential for Preservation of the Institution of Marriage[6] and Islamic veil.[7] Now, I present to you an article, Muhammad: the restorer of family values.

[i] David Blankenhorn.  Fatherless America.  Basic books a division of Harper Collins Publisher.  1995.

[ii] Nathaniel Branden.  Six pillars of self-esteem.  Bantam.  1994.  Page 205.

[iii] Suzame Chazin.  Teen Pregnancy: Let us get real.  Reader’s Digest, September, 1996.  Page 49.


Categories: Family values

2 replies

  1. If Jesus did not marry and did not have children then he cannot be a role model for family values so badly needed for our society. This point is beautifully illustrated by Prof. Mark W Muesse, in his lecture series Confucius, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. He writes comparing the four sages, Confucius, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad:

    Muhammad’s marital and family life was the most complicated among the four sages. Throughout his life, he had around a dozen wives and many children, although some of his children died young; all but one or two children predeceased him. We have noted before that the motivations for his marriages were diverse: some were political, some humanitarian, some perhaps romantic. We have also observed that some of his marriages were happy and some were not, but that he tried, according to the hadith, to treat all of his wives with kindness and told his followers to do the same. It is also clear that Muhammad often consulted his wives-at least some of them­ and sought their advice on important matters. Of our four sages, Muhammad seems to be the one who would most deserve the title of ‘family man.’

    The Messiah of this age, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani in his book the Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam explains the remedies that an individual can take to develop the virtue of chastity, whereby sex is practiced only within the boundaries of formal marriage:

    For additional details go to:

  2. We must admit that marriages have problems worldwide and not only in the West (to some extent). One of the reasons outlined in a book by George Friedman (The next 100 years) is that in the olden days wives had many children and consequently were ‘occupied’ more or less all their productive lives. Now more and more wives go to work, have one or two children later in life and return to work. Consequently they are less dependent on the husband as breadwinner and can more easily decide to ‘go it alone’. In any case, just the more a reason to remember the glorious example of the Holy Prophet (may peace and blessings be on him).

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