Bernardo M. Villegas
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The Destructive Forces of Divorce

           Before members of the Philippine Congress waste their time and resources giving serious consideration to bills proposing the legalization of divorce in the Philippines, they should first reflect on the constitutional mandate found in Article XV (The Family) of the 1987 Philippine Constitution and I quote, "Section 1.  The State recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation.  Accordingly, it shall strengthen its solidarity and actively promote its total development; and Section 2.  Marriage, an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State."  Then they should ask their respective research staff to read, among other works, the book entitled "The Treatise on the Family," by Gary Becker, considered by many as one of the most influential economists of the past hundred years.  Professor Becker, Nobel Laureate in Economics and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, just passed away at the age of 84 last May 2, 2014.

          In the Introduction to "The Treatise on the Family," (1981) Dr. Becker summarized his prolific research on the American family in the following words which should serve as warning to other societies contemplating legalizing divorce:  "The family in the Western World has been radically altered--some claim almost destroyed--by events of the last three decades.  The rapid growth in divorce rates has greatly increased the number of households headed by women and the number of children growing up in households with only one parent....The rapid decline in birth rates has reduced family size and helped cause the increased rates of divorce and labor force participation of married women.  Conversely, expanded divorce and labor force participation have reduced the desire to have large families.  Conflict between the generations has become more open, and today's parents are less confident than those of earlier years that they can guide the behavior of their children...

          "A few statistical highlights provide a quantitative perspective on the magnitude of these changes.  Less than 15 per cent of the women in the US who married for the first time in the early 1950 have divorced, whereas about 60 per cent of all first marriage of the early 1980 are likely to end in divorce...Spurred by the increased divorce rate and the larger longevity of women, female-headed households increased between 1950 and 1987 from 15 to 31 per cent of all households in the US....The reproductive rate in the US was below replacement in  1989 because the birthrate had declined by more than 40 per cent since 1958."

          These hard facts (not religious or moral arguments) clearly demonstrate the destructive forces of divorce.  Legalizing divorce will definitely go against the constitutional mandate that the State should strengthen the solidarity of the family and actively promote its total development.  A recent article in the Asian Wall Street Journal (April 22, 2014) by Robert Maranto and Michael Crouch reinforces the findings of Dr. Becker about the destructive forces of divorce, this time on the economy.  They point out that the "strongest statistical correlate of inequality in the United States is the rise of single-parent families during the past half century."  They explain:  "The two-parent family has declined rapidly in recent decades.  In 1960, more than 70% of African-Americans and nearly 97% of whites were born to married couples.  Today the percentage is 30% for blacks and 70% for whites.  The out-of-wedlock birthrate for Hispanics surpassed 50% in 2006.  This trend, coupled with high divorce rates, means that roughly 25% of American children now live in single-parent homes, twice the percentage in Europe.  Roughly a third of American children live apart from their fathers."

          The harmful effects of divorce are not limited to poor households.  In an essay called "Even for Rich Kids Marriage Matters," sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox reported that children in high-income households who experienced family breakups don't fare well emotionally, psychologically, educationally or, in the end, economically as their two-parent-family peers. There is abundant empirical evidence that abuse, behavioral problems and psychological issues of all kinds, such as developmental behavior problems or concentration issues, are less common for children of married couples than for cohabiting or single parents.  The causal relationships are as strong as those connecting cancer to smoking.  In fact, there is every reason to use the analogy from smoking and to warn legislators that "divorce is dangerous to the health of the nation," or "divorce kills society."  I do hope that all the proposed bills legalizing divorce will end up in the "circular file." There are numerous more constructive bills, such as the competition law or anti-dynasty bill, that should occupy the attention of the legislators. For comments, my email address is