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Family Update, Online!

Volume 04  Issue 25 24 June 2003
Topic: Marriage & Divorce

Family Fact: Fumbling the Facts

Family Quote: Fumbling the Faith

Family Research Abstract: Everything Upside Down

Family Fact of the Week: Fumbling the Facts TOP of PAGE

"Pollster Louis Harris has written, 'The idea that half of American marriages are doomed is one of the most specious pieces of statistical nonsense ever perpetuated in modern times.'

It all began when the Census Bureau noted that during one year, there were 2.4 million marriages and 1.2 million divorces. Someone did the math without calculating the 54 million marriages already in existence, and presto, a ridiculous but quotable statistic was born.

Harris concludes, 'Only one out of eight marriages will end in divorce. In any single year, only about 2 percent of existing marriages will break up.'"

(Source:  J. Allan Petersen, Better Families, in "To Verify," Leadership Journal, Summer 1996, http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/6l3/6l3069.html.)

Family Quote of the Week: Fumbling the Faith TOP of PAGE

"The new report preaches inclusiveness of all people and all family forms.  It is very preoccupied with the question of family form; it argues that good families are not defined by their form - whether two parents or one, adoptive or biological, extended or nuclear, joint or centered on conjugal couple, married or unmarried, heterosexual or homosexual.  What really counts, it contends, is how the various forms function and the quality of their communicative process. This, it believes, is what the social sciences say and the Bible says also.  Since the first half of the report attempts to review the social sciences and only later is followed by an interpretation of the biblical witness, it seems to put more weight on the former than the latter.   Unfortunately, the report is mainly wrong about both the social sciences and the Bible; good family process is important, but on the whole, intact married couples do a better job of it. Why?  They are on average more invested in both their children and each other."

(Source:  Don Browning, "How Inclusiveness becomes Elitist: Reflections on the Presbyterian Report on Families," Religion, Culture, and Family Project University of Chicago, 2003; http://divinity.uchicago.edu/family/presrepcrit.htm .) 

For More Information TOP of PAGE

The Howard Center and The World Congress of Families stock a number of pro-family books, including The Wealth of Families, edited by Carl A. Anderson and William J. Gribben. Please visit:

    The Howard Center Bookstore   

 Call: 1-815-964-5819    USA: 1-800-461-3113    Fax: 1-815-965-1826    Contact: Bookstore 

934 North Main Street Rockford, Illinois 61103

Family Research Abstract of the Week: Everything Upside Down TOP of PAGE

Western legal traditions that for centuries buttressed marriage and the family have, in just a few short decades, largely disintegrated, reduced to so much debris by "a brusque transformation of family law." So assert legal scholars from the University of Antwerp and Hildesheim University in a remarkable commentary published in a recent issue of the Journal of Family History.

The Dutch and German scholars remark that legal institutions that had appeared "fairly stable over several centuries have quite suddenly crumbled under the combined pressures of capitalism, individualism, and moral anomy." For instance, legal doctrines that had reinforced the familial authority of the husband and father have now been "abolished and replaced by a set of gender-neutral rights and duties of spouses and parents." Similarly, the legal role of marriage in conferring legitimacy on children has been "swept away," along with all public "discrimination between legitimate and illegitimate children."

"Marriage used to be for life," write the authors of the commentary, "with divorce either impossible or to be obtained only under burdensome conditions. But the control of the exit out of marriage has been much relaxed, and the dissolution of a marriage by divorce has become just as normal as the dissolution by death."

Whereas nonmarital cohabitation was once either forbidden or "regally ignored" by law, it is now widely accepted as "a true alternative to marriage, a somewhat less stringently regulated way of organizing partner relationships." The legal repudiation of the traditional understanding of wedlock has now advanced so far that "even one of the last remnants of traditional family law, the requirement that spouses and parents be of different gender, has come under siege," with some jurisdictions now extending "marriage-like rights to same gender couples."

In short, the Dutch and German commentators see a thoroughgoing revolution in Western family law: "The principles that uncontestedly dominated family law for hundreds of years have been turned topsy-turvy."

(Source: Harry Willekens and Kirsten Scheiwe, "Introduction: The Deep Roots, Stirring Present, and Uncertain Future of Family Law," Journal of Family History28.1[2003]: 5-14.)


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