Healthy Marriage Initiative


Un castello e 40  cani

Giovanni De Sio Cesari



 Ricordo un grazioso film degli anni 80 dal titolo: "C’era n castello e 40 cani". In esso appariva un padre che insieme al figlioletto di 7 anni andava  a prendere possesso di un castello ereditato in Toscana  mentre la  moglie restava  a Milano per affari .

 Nella campagna Toscana però i due si trovano  benissimo, a proprio agio,  e il castello si trasforma in una pensione per cani  con relativo discreto guadagno Il problema è che il padre si innamora, ricambiato, di una ragazza  del luogo mentre la madre rimasta in città si trova bene in compagnia di un industriale, suo vecchio amico  Ma non è un problema : niente scene di gelosia, disagi esistenziali, niente problemi economici: tutto appare cosi bello e naturale e il bambino appare alla fine felice di avere il doppio degli altri: due padri,due madri due case e   due vite una in campagna e una in città. 

 In effetti un bambino non ha idea di cosa sia, giusto, naturale, opportuno : considera  tale quello che di cu ha esperienza: se soffre la fame penserà che sia un fatto naturale comune  a tutti i i bambini, anche  se subirà violenze sessuali penserà ugualmente che sia fatto naturale e comune Analogamente accetterà o meno  lo sfascio della  famiglia a seconda che l’ambiente gli dirà o  meno che si tratta di fatto naturale, comune e opportuno

 La valutazione dell’impatto non va visto da impressioni personali e soggettive  neùè di adulto nè di bambino ma da studi che oggettivamente confrontino le diverse situazioni  .

 La realtà come appare nello studio sotto  riportata appare un tantino diversa da quella del film  e di tanti fiction: la famiglia disgregata o mai formata non pare propriamente l’ambiente migliore per la formazione di  un bambino come le impietose statistiche sotto riportate  paiono mostrare al di la delle opposte ideologie: appare chiaro che il livello materiale e morale  si abbassa decisamente se si passa da una famiglia cosi detta tradizionale a una famiglia cosi detta alternativa

 Questo non significa  che ogni famiglia  tradizionale sia migliore di ogni  qualsiasi altro aggregato familiare e tanto meno che essa sia sempre un ambiente sano e ideale,certamente no. Ma i problemi sociologici si affrontano sempre tenendo conto della  media generale non dei casi singoli



by Robert E. Rector and Melissa G. Pardue

The erosion of marriage during the past four decades has had large-scale negative effects on both children and adults: It lies at the heart of many of the social problems with which the government currently grapples. The beneficial effects of marriage on individuals and society are beyond reasonable dispute, and there is a broad and growing consensus that government policy should promote rather than discourage healthy marriage.

In response to these trends, President George W. Bush has proposed--as part of welfare reform reauthorization--the creation of a pilot program to promote healthy and stable marriage. Participation in the program would be strictly voluntary. Funding for the program would be small-scale: $300 million per year. This sum represents one penny to promote healthy marriage for every five dollars government currently spends to subsidize single parenthood. Moreover, this small investment today could result in potentially great savings in the future by reducing dependence on welfare and other social services.

The Importance of Marriage

Today, nearly one-third of all American children are born outside marriage. That's one out-of-wedlock birth every 35 seconds. Of those born inside marriage, a great many children will experience their parents' divorce before they reach age 18. More than half of the children in the United States will spend all or part of their childhood in never-formed or broken families

The collapse of marriage is the principal cause of child poverty in the United States. Children raised by never-married mothers are seven times more likely to live in poverty than children raised by their biological parents in intact marriages. Overall, approximately 80 percent of long-term child poverty in the United States occurs among children from broken or never-formed families.t is often argued that strengthening marriage would have little impact on child poverty because absent fathers earn too little. This is not true: The typical non-married father earns $17,500 per year at the time his child is born. Some 70 percent of poor single mothers would be lifted out of poverty if they were married to their children's father. This is illustrated in Chart 1, which uses data from the Princeton Fragile Families and Child Well-being Survey--a well-known survey of couples who are unmarried at the time of a child's birth. If the mothers remain single and do not marry the fathers of their children, some 55 percent will be poor. However, if the mothers married the fathers, the poverty rate would drop to 17 percent. (This analysis is based on the fathers' actual earnings in the year before the child's birth.) 1

The growth of single-parent families has had an enormous impact on government. The welfare system for children is overwhelmingly a subsidy system for single-parent families. Some three-quarters of the aid to children--given through programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, public housing, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and the Earned Income Tax Credit--goes to single-parent families. (See Chart 2.) Each year, government spends over $150 billion in means-tested welfare aid for single parents.2

Growing up without a father in the home has harmful long-term effects on children. Compared with similar children from intact families, children raised in single-parent homes are more likely to become involved in crime, to have emotional and behavioral problems, to fail in school, to abuse drugs, and to end up on welfare as adults.Finally, marriage also brings benefits to adults. Extensive research shows that married adults are happier, are more productive on the job, earn more, have better physical and mental health, and live longer than their unmarried counterparts. Marriage also brings safety to women: Mothers who have married are half has likely to suffer from domestic violence as are never-married mothers.


Policy Background


Despite the overwhelming evidence of the benefits of marriage to families and society, the sad fact is that, for more than four decades, the welfare system has penalized and discouraged marriage. The U.S. welfare system is currently composed of more than 70 means-tested aid programs providing cash, food, housing, medical care, and social services to low-income persons. Each year, over $200 billion flows through this system to families with children. While it is widely accepted that the welfare system is biased against marriage, relatively few understand how this bias operates. Many erroneously believe that welfare programs have eligibility criteria that directly exclude married couples. This is not true.

Nevertheless, welfare programs do penalize marriage and reward single parenthood because of the inherent design of all means-tested programs. In a means-tested program, benefits are reduced as non-welfare income rises. Thus, under any means-tested system, a mother will receive greater benefits if she remains single than she would if she were married to a working husband. Welfare not only serves as a substitute for a husband, but it actually penalizes marriage because a low-income couple will experience a significant drop in combined income if they marry.

For example: A typical single mother on Temporary Assistance to Needy Families receives a combined welfare package of various means-tested aid benefits worth about $14,000 per year. Suppose the father of her children has a low-wage job paying $16,000 per year. If the mother and father remain unmarried, they will have a combined income of $30,000 ($14,000 from welfare and $16,000 from earnings). However, if the couple marries, the father's earnings will be counted against the mother's welfare eligibility. Welfare benefits will be eliminated (or cut dramatically), and the couple's combined income will fall substantially. Thus, means-tested welfare programs do not penalize marriage per se but, instead, implicitly penalize marriage to an employed man with earnings. The practical effect is to significantly discourage marriage among low-income couples.


There are some who argue that, while marriage is a fine institution, the decision to marry or not to marry is a private decision in which the government should not be involved.26 This argument is based on a misunderstanding of the government's current involvement in the issue of single-parenthood, as well a misunderstanding of the President's Healthy Marriage Initiative.

First, the government is already massively involved when marriages either fail to form or break apart. Each year, the government spends over $150 billion in subsidies to single parents. Much of this expenditure would have been avoided if the mothers were married to the fathers of their children. This cost represents government efforts to pick up the pieces and contain the damage when marriage fails. To insist that the government has an obligation to support single parents--and to control the damage that results from the erosion of marriage--but should do nothing to strengthen marriage itself is myopic. It is like arguing that the government should pay to sustain polio victims in iron lung machines but should not pay for the vaccine to prevent polio in the first place.

Second, the government is already heavily (and counterproductively) involved in individual marriage decisions, given that government welfare policies discourage marriage, by penalizing low-income couples who do marry and by rewarding those who do not. The President's Healthy Marriage Initiative would take the first steps to reduce these anti-marriage penalties.

Third, under the President's initiative, the government would not "intrude" into private matters concerning marriage, since all participation in the marriage promotion program would be voluntary. Nearly all Americans believe in the institution of marriage and hope for happy and long-lasting marriages for themselves and their children. Very few wish for a life marked by a series of acrimonious and broken relationships. The President's program would offer services to couples seeking to improve the quality of their relationships. It would provide couples seeking healthy and enduring marriages with skills and training to help them to achieve that goal. To refuse services and training to low-income couples who are actively seeking to improve their relationships because "marriage is none of the government's business" is both cruel and shortsighted.

Finally, the government has a long-established interest in improving the well-being of children. For instance, the government funds Head Start because the program will ostensibly increase the ability of disadvantaged children to grow up to become happy and productive members of society. It is clear that healthy marriage has substantial, long-term, positive effects on children's development: Conversely, the absence of a father or the presence of strife within a home both have harmful effects on children. If government has a legitimate role in seeking to improve child well-being through programs such as Head Start, it has a far more significant role in assisting children by fostering healthy marriage within society.


More than 40 years ago, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan--at that time, a member of President Lyndon Johnson's White House staff--wrote poignantly of the social ills stemming from the decline of marriage in the black community. Since that time, the dramatic erosion of marriage has afflicted the white community as well. Today, the social and economic ills fostered by marital collapse have exceeded Senator Moynihan's worst expectations.Tragically, when Senator Moynihan's prescient report on marriage and the family was released in the early 1960s, it was met with a firestorm of abuse. So vitriolic was the attack against Moynihan that a virtual wall of silence came to surround the issues he raised. For 30 years, nearly all public discussion about the importance of marriage, and the role that government policy played in either supporting or undermining it, was muffled. Meanwhile, marriage declined and out-of-wedlock childbearing soared. When Moynihan wrote his report in the early 1960s, 7 percent of all American children were born out of wedlock: Today, the number is 33 percent. To any objective observer, the link between the erosion of marriage and high levels of child poverty and welfare dependence was obvious, but for decades, this topic was scrupulously avoided in public discussion.

n the early 1990s, the wall of silence surrounding the marriage issue began to crumble. In his 1993 State of the Union address, President Bill Clinton spoke forcefully of the harm wrought by the decline of marriage in America.27 His remarks echoed those of Moynihan 30 years earlier. By the late 1990s, most responsible individuals, on both the left and the right, had acknowledged the importance of marriage to the well-being of children, adults, and society. Most affirmed the need for government policies to strengthen marriage.

In response, President Bush has developed the Healthy Marriage Initiative: the first positive step toward strengthening the institution of marriage since the Moynihan report four decades ago. The proposal represents a strategy to increase healthy marriage--carefully crafted on the basis of all existing research on the topic of promoting and strengthening marriage.The President's Healthy Marriage Initiative is a future-oriented, preventive policy. It will foster better life-planning skills--encouraging couples to develop loving, committed marriages before bringing children into the world, as opposed to having children before trust and commitment between the parents has been established. The marriage program will encourage couples to reexamine and improve their relationships and plan wisely for the future, rather than stumbling blindly into a childbirth for which neither parent may be prepared. The program will also provide marriage-skills education to married couples to improve their relationships and to reduce the probability of divorce.Ideally, pro-marriage interventions for non-married couples would occur well before the conception of a child. A second--less desirable, but still fruitful--point of intervention would be at the time of a child's birth: a time when the majority of unmarried couples express an active interest in marriage. By providing young couples with the tools needed to build healthy, stable marriages, the Marriage Initiative would substantially reduce future rates of welfare dependence, child poverty, domestic violence, and other social ills.

There is now broad bipartisan recognition that healthy marriage is a natural protective institution that, in most cases, promotes the well-being of men, women, and children: It is the foundation of a healthy society. Yet, for decades, government policy has remained indifferent or hostile to marriage. Government programs sought merely to pick up the pieces as marriages failed or--worse--actively undermined marriage.