Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Inconvenient Glen Grothmann

So much of our political dialogue isn't serious. Here's a recent example.

Senator Glen Grothman is being criticized for suggesting that nonmarital parenthood is related to child abuse. He has sponsored a bill to require the state Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to create educational materials that would stress the connection between nonmarital parenthood and child abuse.

All the usual suspects are up in arms. This is supposedly "anti-women" and "ignorant." It "targets" and "labels" single mothers. Tanya Atkinson, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood, says that ""[w]omen are really really getting fed up by all of this kind of legislation, they want it to stop and we're seeing them really raise up their voices ...."

Let's put aside the fact that "women" do not generally do anything en masse and, I'm pretty sure, did not elect Tanya Atkinson gender spokesperson. There is one inconvenient fact.

Grothman may well be right.

I've done a of reading on this in connection with the marriage issue. There is an awful lot of support for Grothman's position. Children raised in single parent and step families are more likely to be the victims of abuse and neglect.This is not to say that all - or, thank God, even most - single or step parents will be abusers. It simply reflects the fact that raising children alone or with someone who is not that child's biological parent (and, therefore, likely to be less invested in that child) is difficult. Although some people try to dismiss the correlation by pointing out that single parent households are poorer, this doesn't explain away the phenomenon and poverty can itself be the product of single parenthood. At the very least, the correlation presents a series of questions that policymakers cannot ignore

The uncomfortable fact is that family structure appears to matter. While there are people who pull it off well, the difficulties of single and step families lead to a higher rate of abuse and neglect and poorer outcomes for kids than we find in households of married biological parents. The Brady Bunch was one of the crueler myths of the Sixties.

I'm not so sure that I like the bill. I don't know that it helps much to fund another government agency to tell people what to do. But that's a libertarian objection and an expression of suspicion about the ability of government - as opposed to organic institutions - to have much impact on people by putting out pamphlets and holding meetings. Grothman's critics on the left are generally unconcerned about government getting up in people's business.

They just think that Big Macs and inefficient light bulbs are a greater threat to the public weal than children raised without fathers.

The larger point is that Grothman has spoken a truth that the left doesn't want to hear. So they'll distort it and vilify him. They'll do it even though he has got an awful lot of evidence on his side.

Tell me again who's anti-intellectual?

20 comments:

Phil Scarr (muttmutt) said...

"I've done a of reading on this in connection with the marriage issue. There is an awful lot of support for Grothman's position. Children raised in single parent and step families are more likely to be the victims of abuse and neglect.This is not to say that all - or, thank God, even most - single or step parents will be abusers. It simply reflects the fact that raising children alone or with someone who is not that child's biological parent (and, therefore, likely to be less invested in that child) is difficult. Although some people try to dismiss the correlation by pointing out that single parent households are poorer, this doesn't explain away the phenomenon and poverty can itself be the product of single parenthood. At the very least, the correlation presents a series of questions that policymakers cannot ignore."

Can you provide citations for the research that led to these conclusions? Thanks.

John Foust said...

Tell me again who's anti-intellectual?

I'll bite. At first I was going to say "Steve Nass." But then it came to me! Glenn Grothman!

From JSOnline, April 2011 : "As Wisconsin has added more 4-year-old kindergartens, our fourth-grade reading scores have plummeted," Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) said in an interview Monday. "I think early education, like any preschool program, can have harmful psychological effects, and any academic benefit disappears by the time one is 9 or 10."

From JSOnline, July 2010 : "There are tens of thousands of people with master's degrees who don't have the common sense God gave a rabbit," said state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), who has a law degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Whether you spend two, four (or) six years hanging around a classroom has no bearing on whether you can hold elective office. . . . Anybody who knows Scott Walker knows he could take six months off and sit in a boring classroom and it wouldn't make him one whit more qualified."

No doubt there is more to be found.

Darn. I was hoping your next lecture was going to cover the definition of "agent" as it applies to Walker's new defense fund.

Now I can see that the next lecture should be about correlation and causation. Let's toss poverty, education, religion, and race into the correlation matrix and see what comes out.

George Mitchell said...

Phil Scarr asks, "Can you provide citations for the research that led to these conclusions?"

Start with the 1965 Moynihan Report, though it is likely the research on this issue pre-dates that.

The beauty of Google is that issues and research involving single parenting is within a few keystrokes of those who are interested.

Anonymous said...

Grothman choose this issue to use funds that were allocated by government to spend. Grothman himself stated that he didn't want this spending to begin with. That said, since we need to spend it, why no this? It's obvious by Phil Scarr that there are those in our society that don't even realize this correlation.
Any simple google search will give you the answer.
http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/usermanuals/foundation/foundatione.cfm

Anonymous said...

It's not "intellectual" to correctly spell the name of the very focus of your essay. It's one means for establishing that you really are a reader -- and a careful reader worth reading.

John Foust said...

Glenn Grothman.

John Foust said...

And no wisecracks about him still living with a single parent, never having married, and not having any children that we know of.

Nick said...

We need to remember that Correlation and Causation are not the same. Clearly Grothman (and probably Esenberg) are already inclined to believe in the link, so seeing the statistic must make it so... right?

But when you look at these studies, they are generally just statistical analysis. In fact, this one (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21377732) shows that the two most likely people to be abusers (whether in a married or single parent household) were the biological parents, not a new paramour.

So what does all this mean? Well... NOTHING. Because there is nothing in these studies that actually show that being a single parent lead to the abuse. They show the correlation, but not the causation.

Could it be that being divorced, or not wanting to marry your husband is just another symptom of some other issue that is causing abuse? If you are an abusive, angry person who is likely to abuse your child, do you think its likely you will find a mate who is willing to marry you? Probably not. Perhaps, the abuse is causing the lack of marriage, not the other way around.

In my particular case, I had a father who was emotionally and psychologically abusive (though thankfully not physically abusive). I am very thankful that my mother divorced my father and became a single mother... it actually SAVED me from abuse.

Anonymous said...

Actually, there are studies indicating not only correlation, but causation. Also, simple logic dictates an easy line to correlation. Given the enormous gap between single parent and duel parent households, it must be recognized as a very major contributing factor. Nick, you are endangering children by ignoring fact and refusing to give this essential knowledge to the people. (Actually, I think it's a waste of money much like Grothman. If it's gotta be spent, why not this? It's for the children!)

James Rowen said...

Here's what I don't understand, Rick: Your ambivalence about the bill which is contradicted by the rest of the posting:

I'm not so sure that I like the bill. I don't know that it helps much to fund another government agency to tell people what to do.

Tom said...

"It simply reflects the fact that raising children alone or with someone who is not that child's biological parent (and, therefore, likely to be less invested in that child) is difficult."

It goes farther than that - the study Grothman cites to finds that a child living with a single parent and NO other adult in the house is still 3-4 times more likely to suffer abuse.

Re: correlation vs. causation. People sometimes say correlation doesn't imply causation. That's completely wrong. Correlation implies causation, and sometimes does so very strongly. Correlation doesn't PROVE causation, but it's certainly evidence that causation may exist.

Personally, if there's a high correlation and some logical reason causation would exist, I will tentatively believe causation exists until proven otherwise.

And, of course, nearly all social science is based on correlational studies anyway, so complaining about lack of causational proof (especially while claiming that something else, like poverty, is causing the rise in abuse), is more than a little disingenuous.

Rick Esenberg said...

Here are some examples:

William J. Doherty, et al., 2002. Why Marriage Matters: Twenty-One Conclusions from the Social Sciences (New
York: Institute for American Values): 6 (co-authors include William J. Doherty, William A. Galston, Norval D. Glenn,
John Gottman, Barbara Markey, Howard J. Markman, Steven Nock, David Popenoe, Gloria G. Rodriguez, Isabel V.
Sawhill, Scott M. Stanley, Linda J. Waite, and Judith Wallerstein).

Kristin Anderson Moore, et al., 2002. “Marriage from a Child’s Perspective: How Does Family Structure Affect
Children and What Can We Do About It?”, Child Trends Research Brief (Washington, D.C.: Child Trends) (June): 1
(available at http://www.childtrends.org/PDF/MarriageRB602.pdf).

Robert I. Lerman, 2002. “Impacts of Marital Status and Parental Presence on the Material Hardship of Families with
Children,” The Urban Institute (Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute) (July): 27 (available at
http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=410538).
Matthew D. Bramlett & William D. Mosher, 2001. “First Marriage Dissolution, Divorce, and Remarriage: United
States,” CDC Advance Data no. 323 (May 31):

Rick Esenberg said...

Nick

The study that you cite of child homicides in Kansas doesn't contradict Grothmann's claims or the studies that I have read and cite. The question of who is more likely to abuse is not the same as looking at the aggregate of abusers. In any event, the results that I'm talking about are pretty robust. They are foind again and again.

And, while I am glad that your personal situation was handled well, it doesn't contradict my point either. It is not my view that people should remain married no matter what. Sometimes that simply isn't possible and single parenthood is the only option.

And, as I said, there are people who pull it off well. I spent some time as a single father. I hope I did all right.

But that doesn't mean that nonmarital parenthood is "just as good" as single parenthood or that it is not something that we ought to discourage.

It is, I suppose, possible that not wanting to be married is the thing that causes abuse although that's fairly speculative. But even if that's true, doesn't it suggest that people who don't want to get married shouldn't have kids?

The sad fact is that, for too many of us, nonmarital parenting has come to be seen not as something that sometimes happens in spite of precautions, but as a fact of life. The consequences are devastating. Grothmann is not wrong to want to push back against that.

Rick Esenberg said...

Foust


I think it is absolutely the case that middle and upper middle class people can deal with nonmarital pregancies better than poor people. Part of that is money but part is the cultural and social capital that they have inherited.

But that doesn't cut against Grothmann's argument. It reinforces it.

As far as Grothmann's other comments, he's not wrong there either. There are an awful lot of people with Masters degrees who lack common sense and the benefits of early childhood education - like Head Start - often do seem to dissipate.

Rick Esenberg said...

Anon 11:11

If you are looking for a proof reader or typist, look elsewhere.

Rick Esenberg said...

Jim

I'm not sure that jawboning by a remote government agency has much of an impact on anyone.

John Foust said...

And we're going to turn to common-sense-endowed conservative intellectuals like Glenn Grothman for the legislative solution to reform society's single parents, returning the prevalence of abuse to marriage-sanctioned levels? I can't wait to see his proposal. Does it involve a shaming wand, reduced access to birth control, creationism in the schools, or higher hurdles to help prevent divorce?

Anonymous said...

I don't know that Glenn claims to have the answers. But, he is asking the right questions and it is an important conversation to have. How many decades of Progressive "the State can care for the children" do we have to endure before we call it the failure that it is? The Nuclear Family is the ideal. Single parents will exist, but is not the ideal. Assisting single parents, short term, is one thing. Policy encouraging a culture of single parenthood is another.

Glenn is doing a great job of "raising awareness".

John McAdams said...

I find it ironic that the liberal who want to outlaw happy meals and incandescent light bulbs are huge supporters of the right of people to choose when the choice is one that clearly hurts children.

But having children is about sex, and liberals are laissez faire about sex, while being authoritarian about any "economic" transaction.

Mpeterson said...

John McAdams: nicely said, but are you willing to finish the analogy? ;^)

Conservatives, or rather, today's version of 'conservative,' seem willing to be laissez faire about any "economic" transaction -- even those that increase poverty, say, or destabilize the global economy -- while being authoritarian about any "sexual" transaction.