Impact of Government Policies on Family and Marriage


The efficacy of government policies with regards to the prevention of family disruption through divorce and separation against the encouraging formation of stable families leaves a lot to be desired. The government is known to apply policies which are retrogressive towards family and marriage, assuming the fact the policies adopted are not progressive, as far as having stable families is concerned. The policies only have served to aggravate the social ailment further. In the end, one ends up with a weak society with no solid and sound moral fiber, including lack of a quality human capital.

          As one will come to learn, most of the government policies face empirical assumptions in discharging their mandate, and, thus do not provide radical approach and solutions to the core underlying issues affecting the stability of the family and marriage institutions.

The social policies developed and implemented at a governmental level do display loads of assumptions. This makes the application of some of these policies selective and ineffective. The social policies do not satisfy their intended goal and purpose, as far as curtailing the runaway divorce, separation and/or single-parenthood is concerned.
           The federal government, in the recent years, has championed various marriage promotions as a central part of its welfare reform initiatives. These marriage promotion efforts are based on the assumptions that poor women, particularly women of color, have family attitudes that tend to differ from those of other women. According to Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a nationally representative sample of births to a single mother is in urban areas.

The results show significant differences in family attitudes between married and unmarried white women but indicate few differences for women of color. Women of color are women of African-American and Latino descents (Haworth Press 2006).
           The federal government program is doomed to fail, as it does not adequately address the core issues contributing to the malfunction of family and marriage units of the society. The marriage promotion welfare reforms are acting on a rationale that low income women are reluctant to marry, and that their family values are out of step with mainstream America; white and middle-class America families (Lichter, Batson, & Brown 2004). The federal program insinuates that women who are recipients of welfare support have more different family values than other women.
            The linkage between the public perception and the welfare recipients is what the federal government would like to address through the marriage promotion welfare reforms. However, this represents a systematic failure on how the government develops and implements policies which are a result of general public perception. The general public perception represents the views and perception of the society. Thus, it is needless to say that policymakers are swayed to develop social policies as a result of the sentiments and concerns of the general public, and not because of the need to address the fundamental causes.
            Understanding the cause-and-effect of changes in the family unit is paramount for a healthy conceivable long-lasting solution to be attained. The vital or the fundamental causes of changes in the family landscape lie outside the policy realm. The profound changes in social attitudes on values and morals provide sharp insight on fundamental causes. Thus, Public policies represent standards, or rules, for conduct…. They reflect what people [society] value, what they believe, and they think is in their best interests (Lerner, Sparks, & McCubbin, 2000). More so, the welfare recipient assumption is that, most women, due to their family and marital attitudes, disregard men, and that includes disregarding them to have time for their families.
             A research conducted in 2001 by Fragile Families study investigated that unmarried parents, especially those cohabiting, have high expectations for marriage. In the study, more than half of those who participated in the whole sample and 75 per cent of cohabiters report a pretty decent or almost certain chance of marriage (Lichter et al 2004). The study also deduced that single mothers desired marriages, as much as the childless single women, yet they also expressed lower expectations for actually getting married. The Fragile Families study also concluded that employment, income and receipts of public assistance had no effect on women’s desires for marriage (Bulcroft & Bulcroft 1993) (South 1993).
              The conclusion of these ideological assumptions lays to rest the public perception, as well as the warped perception of the policymakers that family and marital attitudes differed from other section of women; white women. The research findings contradicted the societal belief and the notion that women recipients do not regard men at all, in either playing their role as breadwinner and or spending time with their families. The findings pointed out glaring facts that women needed men to meet their financial obligations, as well as psychological, emotional and physical obligations to their families.
              Government policies have had and will have cyclical side-effects to lives of the future generations. One needs to analyze and evaluate the effects of the policies adopted on lives of children. This presents a continuation of generational manifestation of social ill frustrating real effects with positive impact on society. Government policy affects children’s lives through its effects on the behavior and lives of adults. Living arrangements of children have dramatically changed over the years. In 1985, among White children, one in five children did not come from a father-mother set of the family. Using 1970, as a reference point, because it was at this time in history that dysfunctional families rose exponentially. Among African-American, the proportion increased from 41 per cent in 1970 to 60 per cent in 1985.

The facts suggested that most of those children who did not come from two-parent families lived in households headed by their mothers. The bizarre side of the story is that a good number of children witnessed their family structure change before their eyes. In 1985, two-parent families may have either been or may eventually end up in single-parent for a period of time.

In 1985, the facts produced staggering contrasts between the white and African- American children. At least half of white children spent their childhood in a single-parent home compared to three-quarters of African-American children.  The period between 1970 and 1985 produced astonishing change in terms of size and speed, at which family breakups took place. The family fragmentation witnessed between these two periods, links government policies, as agents of social dysfunction.

The trends in children’s living arrangements result from the behavior and decisions of adults. For instance, the increase in the proportion of children with single parents could occur, if the number of children with single-parents went up, or if the number of children in families with two parents went down. Since 1970, both changes have occurred, and both scenarios are contributing to the sharp increase in proportion of children in single-parent families.
According to data conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Census’s data on Current Population Survey between 1970 and 1980s, the data depicted the number of women who were single mothers. The Bureau of Census found out that divorced, separated, widowed or never married people at the time of the survey had children. The number of single-mothers had substantially increased in both whites and African-American case scenarios. It should be understood that the survey was addressing and highlighting family structures and its relation to fertility. The number of single parents and number of children per single parents are the two factors which determined the number of children in single-parent families.

In order to understand social degradation of family structures and marriage as an institution, one needs to evaluate the effects of government policies since 1960s, and get insights on how these factors contributed to the disintegrating of the family and marriage entities of the society. Over the years since, 1960s various government policies have helped to catalyze family disintegration. The effects of government policies on divorce, family break up and fertility have contributed to increasing of the problem. In 1960, the regulation of divorce, birth control and abortion were mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court. By the end of 1970, many states established “no fault” divorce procedures. This meant that states were given the power to enact laws to regulate divorce, birth controls and teen births.

For instance, in 1965, Griswold v. Connecticut ruled that state laws prohibiting the sale of contraceptive to married couples were unconstitutional; ruling was extended to unmarried persons in 1972. In 1973, Roe v. Wade overturned state prohibitions on abortion during the first trimester (The Changing American Family and Public Policy 228). These events ushered in deeper changes in attitudes and practices.

This led to states gradually becoming liberal in their application of divorce laws. The liberalization of divorce laws by states led to an increase, in cases of divorces, mainly because of substitution of formal divorce for informal separations or desertion.

The marital breakups were increasing, but the bright side is that fertility declined. Teen births were at record high, and legislation to birth control brought sanity to early teen pregnancy.

When it comes to welfare and family, welfare has handicapped the role of man in a family. Welfare handouts replaced the financial responsibilities, mainly considered the role of a man. Welfare encourages child bearing outside marriage and family fragmentation. Welfare rewards higher benefits, having additional children, while unmarried. There have been wide discussions and arguments over the contribution of welfare program to the disintegration of the family structure. 

Acknowledging the fact that President Reagan’s engineering of the welfare program and the period in 1970s marked height of family fragmentation and dramatic increase in government spending on social welfare programs.

The social welfare programs have taken place of absent fathers who are not working, and thus, by contributing to the financial needs of the children they help bring them into the world. During the reign of President Reagan, the establishment of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) provided aid for economically deprived families who have children. In 1996 came legislation on federal welfare reform which introduced sweeping changes to the country’s system of supporting low income families with children. This subject matter has elicited mixed reaction, as most opponents of the program believe that cash-assistance by the government has fueled households headed by a female. These are consequences of government spending which tend to drive a generation towards redundancy and a retrogressive society.

A combination of financial mixed  incentives in order to work with mandates for the long-term recipients, increased marriages for the long-term recipients, however,  unfortunately, locked out new applicants. This approach is a solution towards resuscitating the family and marriage unions. For instance, a Canadian welfare program provided generous financial incentives to work, increase marriage by a small amount in one of Canada’s province. Another testimony to write about positive effects of mixed financial incentives with the mandate to work is in state of Delaware, where this policy has seen the increase in marriage for younger recipients and those with less education (Fein 1999).

On the contrary, two other studies demonstrated reductions in marriages, with a program taken place in Connecticut, reducing marriages among mothers of young kids , and a program in Iowa decreasing marriages among new applicants to the welfare (Fuller et al. 2002) (Fraker et al. 2002)…

Some of the most evident marriage effects from interventions in social policy have been clustered in two-parent families, increased in marital dissolution, which occurred in 1970s in the Negative Income Tax experiments(Cain and Wissoker 1990) (Groeneveld et al. 1980) (Hannan, Tuma and Groeneveld 1977), and more currently, substantial increases in the marital stability among the two-parent recipient families in the welfare program Minnesota  (Knox et al., 2000).

The government through enactment of various policies can bring the glory of traditional marriage back by investing wisely in programs which alleviate cases of family fragmentation. The government and other stakeholders through adopting sound policies can transform the lost glory of the traditional marriage back

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