Monday, September 5, 2011

Cohabitation and Child Welfare

An article in the Washington Times highlights what some researchers have been saying for a couple of decades now about the social consequences for kids living in homes where the adults are living together without benefit of marriage:
Cohabiting is an emerging threat to the health of children and society, two new research reports say.

In the latter half of the 20th century, “divorce posed the biggest threat to marriage in the United States,” sociology professor W. Bradford Wilcox and 17 other scholars said in a report released this week by the Institute for American Values’ Center for Marriage and Families and the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. That is no longer the case, they said.

“Today, the rise of cohabiting households with children is the largest unrecognized threat to the quality and stability of children’s family lives,” the scholars said in “Why Marriage Matters, Third Edition: Thirty Conclusions From the Social Sciences.”

Cohabiting relationships are prone to instability, with “multiple transitions” and breakups. Children are less likely to thrive in such homes and may even be exposed to abuse from unrelated persons in their homes, the report says.

“The growing instability of American family life also means that contemporary adults and children are more likely to live in what scholars call ‘complex households,’ ” it added. There is scant research on homes in which children live with half-siblings, stepsiblings, stepparents and stepchildren, “but the initial findings are not encouraging.”

Mr. Wilcox, who directs the National Marriage Project, and his colleagues cautioned that while cohabitation is associated with increased risks of psychological and social problems for children, “this does not mean that every child who is exposed to cohabitation is damaged.”

Still, the risks are real, they said: In one study of children aged 6 to 11, about 16 percent of children in cohabiting homes had “serious emotional problems.” This was true of 4 percent of children living with married biological or adoptive parents.
One thing this article doesn't mention is the threat to a child's physical safety posed by mom's cohabiting boyfriends. David Blankenhorn notes, in his book Fatherless America, that most child abuse, including sexual abuse of teenage girls, is at the hands of live-in boyfriends, and that, statistically speaking, girls are nowhere more safe than when they are with their biological father.

Editorial Hari Kari

There's a puzzling article by Richard Black at the BBC on the resignation of the editor of the science journal Remote Sensing.

The back story is that Remote Sensing published a peer-reviewed paper by two climate scientists who are skeptical that computer models which project dire global temperature increases are correct. It's their view that a negative feedback is being interpreted as though it were a positive feedback resulting in temperature projections that are excessively inflated.

The paper, written by Roy Spencer and William Braswell, has been heavily criticized by the climatological community for not taking into account counter-arguments that had appeared in other journals allegedly addressing the very complaint they raise.

Wolfgang Wagner, editor of Remote Sensing, says he agrees with those who have taken him to task for publishing the Spencer/Braswell paper and is stepping down, presumably as an act of professional contrition.

This resignation strikes me as odd because nowhere in the article is there reference to any specific error in Spencer and Braswell's work. It's never made clear what it is about publishing this paper that's so egregious as to warrant the editor's decision to fall on his sword.

In fact Spencer is so confident of the science in his paper that he's challenging anyone who thinks they've found an error or evidence of shoddy methodology to publish a peer-reviewed critique. In essence, he's telling them to put up or shut up.

A second thing that's odd about the BBC article is that the caption of a photo of Spencer accompanying the article states that he's "a committed Christian as well as a professional scientist." What does his religion have to do with this? What's the purpose of mentioning it? Is this intended to be some sort of smear? Is the implication supposed to be that Christians can't do responsible climate science? Would a photo of a proponent of the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming be accompanied by a caption declaring him to be an atheist, if indeed he were one?

It's all very strange.