Bernardo M. Villegas
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Promoting the Welfare of Children

           Happily, there is an increasing interest in public policy that promotes and protects the welfare of children.  More determined efforts to uproot practices of trafficking with children, sexual abuse of minors, the use of child labor and other anti-child policies are becoming more visible in both national and international circles.  The mistreatment of children, especially at the very early stages of life, can inflict permanent and life-long damage on their integral human development.  World-wide indignation recently elicited by photos of children being employed in small-scale mining is one more indication of the greater sensitivity to the issue of child welfare.

          Unfortunately, in many countries which are undermining the stability of the traditional family through rampant legislation on “instant divorce,” same-sex marriage and de facto unions, there is little awareness of the abundance of evidence linking the health of marriage to the welfare of children.  As reported in a publication entitled Marriage and the Public Good published by the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, during the last two decades, abundant findings of the social sciences have shown that children do best when reared by their mothers and fathers in a married, intact family.  These scientific findings show why it was wise for those who drafted the Philippine Constitution ratified in 1987 to have declared marriage as an “inviolable institution.”  The “inviolability” of marriage stems not only from religious convictions but from scientific arguments that clearly demonstrate that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.  Any one who wants to exert the effort to do some internet research will verify that similar conclusions have been arrived at by scholars from the Brookings Institution, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University,  the Center for Law and Social Policy, and the Institute for American Values.

          As the publication from the Witherspoon Institute explains in further details, “Marriage matters for children in myriad ways.  We focus here on the educational, psychological, sexual, and behavioral consequences for children of family structure, beginning with education.  Children reared in intact, married homes are significantly more likely to be involved in literacy activities (such as being read to by adults or learning to recognize letters) as preschool children, and to score higher in reading comprehension as fourth graders.  School-aged children are approximately 30 percent less likely to cut class, be tardy, or miss school altogether.  The cumulative effect of family structure on children’s educational performance is most evident in high school graduation rates.  Children reared in intact, married households are about twice as likely to graduate from high school, compared to children reared in single-parent or step-families.  One study found that 37 percent of children  born outside marriage and 31 recent of children with divorced parents dropped out of high school, compared to 13 percent of children from intact families headed by a married mother and father.”  

          Stable marriages are also very important for the psychological health of children.  There is ample evidence that children from stable, married families are significantly less like to suffer from depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse, and thoughts of suicide compared to children from divorced homes.  For example, a recent study of the entire population of Swedish children revealed that Swedish boys and girls in two-parent homes were about 50 percent less likely to suffer from suicide attempts, alcohol and drug abuse, and serious psychiatric illnesses compared to children reared in single-parent homes.    The findings in the U.S. are no different.   A survey of the studies on child well-being in the U.S. showed that stable marriages are more consequential than poverty in predicting children’s psychological and behavioral outcomes.  As a rule, children who are reared by their own married mothers and fathers are much more likely to confront the world with a sense of hope, self-confidence, and self-control than children raised without an intact, married family.

          For the sake of children in the Philippines, I sincerely hope that no Congress in the future would ever entertain legalizing divorce and same-sex marriage which scientific evidence shows are against the long-term welfare of children.  Although it is easier to dramatize and perceive the harm done by sexual abuse of children, the institution of divorce can do much more harm to a larger universe of children over the long run.  Let us always say NO to divorce in the Philippines. Although they need not be the overriding criteria, we should examine the views of the Presidential candidates as well as those running for the Congress of the Philippines concerning the “inviolability of marriage” as mandated by the Philippine Constitution.  Those who, by either word or deed or both, make light of the institution of marriage, do not deserve to lead us because they are not sensitive to the welfare of children.   For comments, my email address is