When we asked our readers about the greatest obstacle to forming stable families, respondents chose a range of answers, including work demands (19 percent), lack of affordable housing (9 percent) and poor education (13 percent). The results of our informal survey suggest that although many people are concerned about the challenges facing families, there is little consensus on how to address current problems.
The most common response (32 percent) was that the redefinition of marriage (which includes divorce and an “unwillingness to commit”) was to blame. Gregory Popcak, who has written for America (“Anxious Hearts,” 1/2/16), selected this answer. “Once marriage is redefined as a personal instead of a social institution,” said Mr. Popcak, “it makes no sense to stick it out through even moderately bad times.” He elaborated, “In this scenario, emotions, rather than principles, become the barometer for whether a couple stays together or not.”
Once marriage is redefined as a personal instead of a social institution, it makes no sense to stick it out through even moderately bad times.
Bridget Morningstar of Maine also chose this answer but approached family stability from an economic standpoint: “In rural Maine, impoverished parents often do not get married in the first place because they can get more government support as single parents…. A lack of formal commitment to begin with increases the chances of parents drifting apart.” Ms. Morningstar also noted that for those parents who can afford to marry, divorce is also a common choice later on.
Twenty percent of our respondents said that inadequate family leave policies and a lack of child care options posed the most significant threat to forming stable families. Kelly Swa of Ohio told America, “It is immensely challenging for families to build a strong foundation when new parents, during one of the most significant transition times of their lives, as well as one of the most physically and emotionally exhausting, must return to work within weeks of the baby's birth.” Ms. Swa added that the high cost of child care jeopardizes the financial security of parents, “creating stress that can affect the health of a family.”