People who think children can thrive in any familial environment may want to reconsider the benefits of raising a child in a two-parent household.
While it seems fairly obvious that a child is more likely to thrive within a family structure comprised of a mother and father, in recent years, society has begun reworking the concept of family to match its vision of inclusivity.
Under this current deconstruction, marriage is no longer an enduring institution dedicated to raising future generations. Instead, it has evolved into an establishment wholly concerned with the “individual dignity and autonomy” of adults, as Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his 2014 “Obergefell v. Hodges” opinion in defense of same-sex marriage.
But this alternative definition of marriage appears to have forgotten that the institution is entirely geared toward preserving the well-being of children.
And a culture that misunderstands the role that matrimony plays in society is also in danger of misjudging the importance of parenthood.
Just as marriage is more complex than two people loving one another — a definition that leaves the door open to all relationships, no matter how unscrupulous — parenting is far more than a mother or father loving the child in their care.
Nowhere is this point more evident than in the case of single motherhood.
The Decline in Two-Parent Households
Single mothers work hard to provide for their families and, quite often, it is not their fault that they are raising a child alone. In addition, the child is never to blame for the circumstances surrounding their birth.
Both single moms and their children deserve support rather than scorn. In this respect, society is correct to withhold condemnation.
Understandably, some families may not be comprised of two parents; however, it is a mistake to pretend as if this is not the ideal family standard.
Conducting a meta-analysis, the committee noted that the number of children born outside of wedlock grew from just 5 percent in 1960 to 40 percent in 2019. In addition, between 1962 and 2019, marriage rates for women ages 15 to 44 fell by approximately 20 percent.
While each individual’s life is unique, the report emphasized that children raised by two married parents tend to experience healthier outcomes than those who were raised by a single parent.
For example, the report highlighted how children raised in two-parent households are less likely to be exposed to various forms of abuse and are more likely to have positive relationships with their parents, most notably, with their fathers.
Single parenthood often comes with harsh realities. Unfortunately, despite good intentions, the culture does little to remedy the situation when it fails to acknowledge the challenges children raised in homes like this face.
Growing Up Fatherless
During a May 25 interview with The Western Journal, pro-life advocate Sarah St. Onge discussed an article she published for Them Before Us last July. Within the piece, St. Onge described being raised by a single mother, as well as her search for the father she never knew.
Describing her life experiences, the advocate said the mistreatment she was subjected to throughout childhood started with neglect.
Instead of caring for St. Onge, her mother preferred to spend all day reading, forcing the child to forage through the kitchen for food.
While most kids get in trouble for breaking curfew, St. Onge’s rummaging through the house for something to eat angered her mother. She did not have money to buy groceries, which meant she did not want her daughter eating the food she had rationed.
But things took a turn for the worse after St. Onge’s mother allowed her boyfriend to move into the house.
“He was just a horrendous human being that should not have been around children at all,” St. Onge told The Western Journal.
While her mother’s boyfriend never struck her, he subjected St. Onge to “extreme sexual abuse.” The advocate also said that drugs and alcohol were present in the house, deepening her exposure to harmful, injurious experiences during formative periods of her life.
Despite the many hardships she faced, however, St. Onge also wondered about the identity of her father.
Compared to her peers, it seemed as if St. Onge was the only one lacking the protective presence of a father. This notable difference only furthered her desire to locate the man who was missing from her life.
“Honestly, I didn’t know anybody who just had no clue who their father was,” the advocate said.
“I was the only person that I knew who just had no clue. There were people who didn’t live in the same household with their fathers who were either, the parents weren’t married, or they had divorced.”
“But I didn’t know anybody else who didn’t know who their fathers were. So I was the only one, and I always wanted to know,” she added.
While St. Onge tried to seek answers from her mother, the effort proved fruitless. Not only was she hostile to the questions, but any revealing information she provided St. Onge was intended to dissuade her search.
“All I ever heard was that he was a bad person, and he used a lot of drugs,” she said.
“And for me, because of that environment that I had lived in with her alone with her, the boyfriend, that really scared me because I didn’t know.”
Despite being unsure of what her search would uncover, the advocate’s hunt for the missing piece of her family tree started as soon as she gained independence at 18.
What a Father Can Give
St. Onge’s desire to connect with her father is understandable, as parents and their children often share a special bond that usually cannot be replicated through other relationships.
Mary Szoch, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, explained that children depend upon each parents’ gendered characteristics during their upbringing.
The need for a child to have a present father, however, cannot be “understated.”
“His presence at the beginning of life sets the stage for what his presence will be like throughout their life. Because fathers attach through the amount of time that they spend with their children,” the director said.
While fatherlessness can negatively impact both genders, a 2015 FRC report highlighted how girls depend on this masculine presence. Reviewing several other studies, the report noted that women raised without fathers are often more vulnerable to abuse, unplanned pregnancies and abortion.
When a father parents a daughter, he serves as an example of the type of treatment she should expect from the men she encounters in life.
Without that stable, positive bond, it is understandable that many girls could find themselves feeling as if they are missing a crucial source of wisdom and protection.
Searching for an Unknown Father
For St. Onge, a name on a birth certificate was the only clue to her father’s identity. With barely any information to aid in the search, the advocate relied on several strategies to locate him.
First, she called every person in the Yellow Pages who had the same name on her birth certificate. She also posted a picture of herself on social media holding a sign that described her search.
Each of these efforts failed to provide any sort of lead, however. It seemed hopeless, but a breakthrough finally occurred with the purchase of an AncestryDNA kit in 2016.
When the test results came back, at long last, she had an answer. But there was a twist.
When she was just a child, St. Onge fantasized about discovering she was secretly a princess, and her father was Prince Charles. Unfortunately, her search did not uncover a hidden royal lineage.
But the advocate did learn that her elusive father was far closer than she ever thought. So close, in fact, he was practically “the guy next door.”
St. Onge grew up in Anaheim, California — which as it turns out, is not far from where her father lived with his family in Huntington Beach, California.
The advocate even discovered that he also grew up in Anaheim, and St. Onge would often pass his old high school when she walked around town as a child. In addition, she frequented one of his favorite haunts — the Huntington Beach Boardwalk, where he usually went to take pictures as a hobby.
But the connection St. Onge shared with her father ran even deeper.
Not only did they have mutual acquaintances, but a family friend also attended the same church as her father’s sister.
St. Onge quickly reached out to a paternal cousin, who had also taken the DNA test. At first, the cousin and the rest of the family ignored her, believing it to be some sort of scam.
After convincing her that they were indeed related, St. Onge later connected with an aunt who provided more information about her father, enabling the advocate to communicate with him at last.
While he was “shocked” to learn that she was his daughter, he instantly recognized her mother after she showed him a picture. While he had suffered from past addictions and fathered other unknown children, the man St. Onge eventually met appeared genuinely repentant for his mistakes.
“From what he tells me, his overriding emotional response is guilt,” the advocate said.
“That, for so many years, that there were children out there that he had, and he wasn’t taking care of. And he was evidently a very attentive and loving father to my younger brother, who is in his late twenties right now.”
“And so, I have no reason to believe that he wouldn’t have been the same with either me or the other sibling that was found either,” she added.
Enabling a Pattern
Even if the culture does not want to admit it, there are consequences for a parent raising a child alone. Naturally, children born into such situations are still entitled to live the life they were intended to have, regardless of hardship.
But acknowledging that not every child will grow up in a two-parent household is not the same as accepting this dynamic as the status quo.
As Szoch noted, pretending there is no ideal parenting standard creates the possibility of more children being raised in potentially harmful environments.
“Each time that we say, ‘Well it’s fine for a child to grow up in any type of household under the sun,’ each time we say that, we’re continuing the likelihood that that’s going to continue,” the director said.
“We’re perpetuating that cycle ourselves.”
Though St. Onge became a single mom at age 17, she did not follow her mother’s parenting style when it came to raising her son.
Similar to the situation she had grown up in, St. Onge often could not afford to buy food. But instead of scolding her son for being hungry, the advocate sometimes went without food so her child could eat.
“That’s not, you know, people say, ‘Well, that’s heroic,’” she said.
“It’s struggling. And struggle isn’t always necessarily something to be celebrated, you know? … There are other things that I would rather be known for.”
St. Onge also wished that she could have given her child more opportunities and a father figure in the home.
Addressing society’s desire to correct the previous mistreatment of single mothers and their children, the advocate suggested the need to correct past wrongs has gone too far.
“I think that because we’re so focused on overcompensating for past wrongs that we’re really not giving children the best options because of our reticence,” St. Onge said.
“And I just think that’s a problem overall.”
Children are not objects, as their lives are indeed altered by the decisions adults around them make. And it is not fair to sacrifice their needs to satisfy present trends.
Instead of normalizing single-parent homes, the culture should seek to reduce them in ways that benefit children’s well-being and promote strong familial bonds.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.