Marriage and Family

We must insist once again that bringing children into the world entails a moral responsibility to provide, not only material necessities, but also moral education and character formation.

Moral education is not a task that can be delegated to baby sitters, or even professional child-care centers...

Fathers and mothers, consumed by “making it” and consumerism, or preoccupied with personal advancement, who come home too late and too tired to attend to the needs of their children, cannot discharge their most elementary duty to their children and their fellow citizens.

...Child-raising is by nature labor-intensive.

...It follows that widespread divorce, when there are children involved, especially when they are in their formative years, is indicative of a serious social problem... Divorce laws should be modified, not to prevent divorce, but to signal society’s concern...

–The Responsive Communitarian Platform

Communitarians have been in the forefront of efforts to strengthen and rebuild the family and to restore a child-centered focus to both our marriage culture and our public policy.  At the same time, communitarians have sought to strengthen marriage in a way that preserves the rights of both women and men, favoring a “peer marriage” in which partners cooperate as equals.  Rather than coerce a new marriage contract, communitarians have tended to favor changes in economic and other incentives under the law that will encourage the kind of strong families that society needs.

Additional Reading

A Communitarian Position Paper on the Family – How can we enable parents to be parents, shore up commitment to the family, and track down deadbeat fathers? This position paper examines these issues and numerous other pro-family policies. Prepared by William Galston, Mary Ann Glendon, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Enola Aird, Amitai Etzioni, Martha Minow, and Alice Rossi.

Linda J. Waite summarizes the evidence showing the importance of healthy marriages to the health of society in Social Science Finds: Marriage Matters from The Responsive Community.

In The Task of Religious Institutions in Strengthening Families –Don Browning introduces the idea of a “critical familism” for religious institutions, and reviews ways in which religious institutions can support families and help prevent family crises. Browning makes specific public policy recommendations, many of them novel, including suggestions for rearranging the work week for dual-income couples.

A Comprehensive Approach to Removing Marriage Penalties C. Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute has written a paper on the tax penalty on marriage. Steuerle examines the “crazy quilt” of tax and expenditure policies that impact married couples and families, the conditions that have led to a tax penalty on marriage, and options for removing or reducing marriage penalties.

For Further Exploration

Brown, B. Ricardo. “Objects of Desire: Communitarianism and the New Politics of Family and Community.” In Unraveling the Right: The New Conservatism in American Thought and Politics, eds., Amy Ansell. Westview Press, 1997.

Browning, Don S., Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, Pamela D. Couture, K. Brynolf Lyon, and Robert M. Franklin. From Culture Wars to Common Ground: Religion and the American Family Debate. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997.

Freshman, Clark. “Privatizing Same-Sex “Marriage” Through Alternative Dispute Resolution: Community-Enhancing Versus Community-Enabling Mediation.” UCLA Law Review 44 (1997): 1687-1771.

Glendon, Mary Ann. Abortion and Divorce in Western Law. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987.

Regan, Milton C., Jr. Family Law and the Pursuit of Intimacy. New York: New York University Press, 1993.

Regan, Milton C., Jr. “The Boundaries of Care: Constructing Community After Divorce.” Houston Law Review 31 (1994): 424-50.

Schneider, Carl E. “Marriage, Morals, and the Law: No-Fault Divorce and Moral Discourse.” Utah Law Review (1994): 503-85.

Stahmann, Robert, and William Herbert. Premarital and Remarital Counseling. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1997.

Ver Eecke, Wilfried. “A Refundable Tax Credit for Children: Self-Interest-Based and Morally Based Arguments.” The Journal of Socio-Economics 25 (1996):383-94.