Wednesday, November 29, 2006


37% of all children born in the United States are “illegitimate.” I use the now-banished term to emphasize the coincidence of our kinder, gentler linguistic habits and the devastating increase in “out-of-wedlock” births.

In 2005, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 1.5 million of the 4.1 million births in this country were to unmarried women—most in their 20s. Fifty years ago, when “illegitimacy” still existed as a social stigma, the number of children born without the benefit of married parents was about 5%. Apparently the progressive policy of social sensitivity hasn’t been a boon to those children for whom it was supposedly instituted.

Despite the rationalizations of 60s and 70s sociologists, it eventually became clear that what ails most children with one parent isn’t a social stigma, but rather the fact that they have only one parent—usually a mom. Unfortunately, our post-Murphy Brown society now casually accepts even the actions of terminally selfish women who deliberately deprive their children of a father—just as it casually ignores the consequences.

One study, for example, found that 90% of the rise in violent crime between 1973 and 1995 could be related to out-of-wedlock births. Another found that cohabitation is 10 times more prevalent now than in 1980, and that kids in these homes are twice as likely to see mom and dad split up than children whose parents have that “meaningless scrap of paper”—a marriage certificate. Indeed, fewer than half of cohabiting couples stay together more than five years—the typical duration being 18 months. Most depressingly, kids in these “test drive families” are vastly more likely to be abused. (See data at and at

As these statistics show, the destigmatizing of America has coincided with the demoralization of America. Indeed, one has to tune in Dr. Laura to get a taste of the phrases most folks would have employed fifty years ago—“shack-up honey,” “unpaid whore,” and “do it for the kids.” (The last statement is perhaps the one that’s most despised today.)

It isn’t unusual for irresponsibility and selfishness to parade around in respectable linguistic garments. I’m confident that most of the effort to destigmatize illegitimacy arose not from a deep concern for the welfare of children but rather from an unstated desire to normalize promiscuity. The latter goal was quickly accomplished by substituting the term “sexually active” for the p-word and by illustrating, ad nauseam, the pain-free joys of extramarital sex on the boob tube.

No more does our tolerant culture make individuals feel bad about doing bad things. We’re more “mature” than our judgmental grandparents. Ignored is the other side of the equation—including the millions of unlucky kids whose egg- and sperm-donors take parenthood less seriously than driving an automobile. The latter activity, at least, requires a license.


Anonymous said...

After working in the child support field for several years in the past, I can relate to what you are saying. Self-gratification has become the focus these days. It appears as though few are looking out for the children that are the result of this have-it-now type of society.

RKirk said...

Hi JoAnna! Thanks for the comment. I worked in child welfare myself almost three decades ago, and I concur with you about the have-it-now, please-yourself-first mentality that is ENGRAINED in our society--thanks to a have-it-now, personal-morality-is-for-the-birds media.

Phil Steiger said...

You are absolutely right. When a postmodern society becomes terminally uncomfortable with moral standards, we lose the benefits of shame, and the result is a slew of renaming and redefining to put a pretty sheen on behavior that destroys families and nearly dooms children. There is a proverb I like about putting a ring in a pig's snout.

Anonymous said...

I find it very interesting, and refreshing, to see that there are still some 'good people' willing to stick their necks out and speak, IMO, truthfully about the sad state of affairs in modern western culture.
As a practicing Muslim in the Middle-East, these 'old' values are deeply ingrained in the teachings of Islam. Everything from prohibiting extramarital sex to encouraging early marriage is enjoined. Promiscuity and homosexuality, practices which are now considered socially acceptable, even encouraged, in the west are strictly prohibited. And even though these same values are, even in the west, still practised by devout religious folk, they are considered a dying breed.

RKirk said...

"Old values" folks here in "the West" (esp. Calfornia) are regularly ridiculed by "modernists" and cultural elites who control the "means of communication" (i.e. the mass media) and those whose psyches have been shaped by them. William Bennett and Dr. Laura are hated more fervently in this decadent culture than perverts like Jerry Springer (who wants to run again for public office--He was once mayor of Cincinnati.) or Howard Stern or a child molester movie maker like the much-honored Roman Polanski.

Sarah said...

Hi, Richard. I thought I posted a comment here a few days ago. Did it not go through? I also want to apologize for not introducing myself--we taught at the same school briefly before I left to stay home with my children three years ago.

peace, Sarah

RKirk said...

Sarah, if the comment doesn't appear here, it apparently didn't get through. There are technical glitches that seem to interfere with posts from time to time. So that's probably what happened to your post. Feel free to post it again if you wish to.

Anonymous said...

Here's another example of complete moral failure. In my country of Canada, we now have federal legislation that effectively changed the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

I sometimes wonder Mr. Kirk, if we in North America are taking our cues from those paragons of virtue, intellectualism and morality: the Hollywood celebrity.