Small-Town Values and Two-Parent Families
We live in a small town, Doylestown, Ohio, population 3000, 1.88 sq. miles. Technically, we live outside the "Village" in Chippewa Township which brings the total area of our community to 36 sq. miles and swells the total population to 7000. This weekend we celebrated our annual Rogues' Hollow Festival, enjoying small town America at its finest. The weekend began with a parade and it seemed that anyone with a church, a civic group, or a tractor joined in -- the sidewalk overflowed with senior citizens and young families with children scurrying to grab candy tossed from floats. There was great music, Lion's BBQ chicken, corn dogs, and of course, funnel cakes. The weekend culminated in a Saturday night fireworks display.
As the fireworks began, my husband and I ducked into an alley between two local businesses to get a better view. Occasional couples or groups of teens passed through as we watched the fireworks, and one unfortunate group walked through at the same time as the Village mayor and a Township trustee. For some odd reason, the mayor barked, "You kids! Get back there!" and pointed them back to the main street of the festival. The kids looked a bit startled, but mumbled their "OK"s and obediently headed back to the street.
I don't know if the boys -- they looked to be around 14-years old -- knew that the man was the mayor or that he had no actual authority to order them back to the festival. But they did what they were told without question. The encounter took me back to my childhood, to the neighborhood I grew up in where everyone's parents sort of did have the authority to discipline everyone else's children. And if the neighbor's parents saw you stepping out of line, you could be sure your parents (and all the other neighbors) would hear about it by the time the streetlights came on. Respect for the authority of your elders was unquestioned. My parents preached it and they modeled it as did most other adults in our community. Two-parent families were the norm; the first divorce sent shockwaves down the street. I remember hearing neighbors talking about it in hushed voices -- divorce was still so uncommon then that it was scandalous.
Here are a few statistics about the town I live in now: 86% of the families with children have married parents (compared to the national average of 74% of White, non-Hispanics, 59% of Hispanics, and 33% of Black families). Ninety-nine percent of the kids graduate from high school and the daily attendance rate is 95%. Our weekly police blotter usually includes items like a call to police about a burglary that turned out to be "faked by a former house-mate and his daughter as a joke" (the actual headline story this week).
A 1997 report from The Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency reports that "the most reliable indicator of violent crime in a community is the proportion of fatherless families."
Fatherless families = violent crime in a community. Period.
The report said that fathers offer not only economic stability, but they are valuable role models for boys, in particular, and reduce stress for mothers. Children from two-parent families are less likely to use drugs, be gang members, be expelled from school, be committed to reform institutions, and become juvenile murderers.
Single parenthood inevitably reduces the amount of time a child has in interaction with someone who is attentive to the child's needs, including the provision of moral guidance and discipline. According to a 1993 Metropolitan Life Survey, "Violence in America's Public Schools," 71 percent of teachers and 90 percent of law enforcement officials state that the lack of parental supervision at home is a major factor that contributes to the violence in schools. Sixty-one percent of elementary students and 76 percent of secondary children agree with this assessment.
Respect for authority -- and for the lives and property of others -- begins in the home. God created authority structures, beginning with humans submitting their will to His and extending to other authorities. Christians are commanded to "Fear God. Honor the emperor" (1 Peter 2:17). Parents are commanded to teach God's word constantly to their children: "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise" (Deuteronomy 6:7). The job of instilling values and morals is exponentially harder when half of the parenting team is not present in the home on a daily basis. The statistics bear out the consequences of straying from God's plan for the family.
One other thing I noticed as we spent time at the festival this weekend was the friendly police presence. All the officers I saw were smiling and I often saw them chatting amiably with teens. In contrast to the militarized police presence we now see in many cities, in our town, for the most part, we have peace officers -- a reflection of the respect for authority taught in homes and the dozen churches in our community.
It's by no means a perfect place to live. We have our share of problems and a handful of juvenile delinquents (and a mayor who doesn't always mind his own business). And I can't get anyone out here to spray for the mutant, man-eating mosquitoes. It's not some elite, high-class suburb -- we're a hard-working community with a high percentage employed in agriculture or construction, most with moderate incomes. But the two-parent families here who stick it out and defy our nation's pathetic divorce rates give their kids a much better chance of making it through adolescence and onto adulthood without delinquency and they make our community a lovely, peaceful place to live.