In the first installment of this discussion, we laid out the findings by Ron Haskins and Isabel V. Sawhill of The Brookings Institute in their article titled “Work and Marriage: The Way to End Poverty and Welfare.” We believe this is a seminal work that is so straightforward and understandable that it is easy to overlook it as just “too easy” or “too simple” to be true. However, with just three variables this can be so complex given the individual components of all our lives.
Mathematically these three variables offer just six sequencing alternatives (N! = 3x2x1).
A = Do not have a child before you get married
B = Finish High School
C = Get a full-time job
Our options for sequences are A-B-C, A-C-B, B-A-C, B-C-A, C-A-B, and C-B-A. And for each there is a pass/fail scenario where you can do two of the three right, and one or two wrong and life is still hard.
We also added two variables of our own: Believe in something bigger than yourself and Avoid substance abuse. Our two are boundaries and act to guide the behaviors of the three variables. These two can negate the positive decisions in ways that either enhance those actions or negate their positive influence. For sure there are millions of other decisions and outside influences that make these variables difficult to do but no less important. We do not want to minimize the difficulty of achieving this path.
For example, a person born with any one of many medical conditions may find finishing high school or holding a job extremely difficult. While significant, these are not the norm. Most of us can make rational decisions, function in society, hold a job, and finish high school. These are choices we all can and must make, or they are made for us by our indecision.
The most straightforward road to success for most would be to avoid having a child before you get married, then finish high school, and finally get a full-time job. Helping with this would be our two boundaries of belief in a higher power and avoiding substance abuse. Without these two boundaries you can do everything right, and then just have it all collapse living a life without legal or moral boundaries.
This is the model that our parents followed (or tried to) and was considered the norm until the 1960’s. This model would seem to be the least stressful and it has the distinct advantage of being achievable.
Conversely, the sequence where one has a child out of wedlock before finishing school is the most stressful. It leads to stress for the mother, and potentially life-altering decisions for both the mother and father. This is the path of least resistance, but the most disastrous for the mother, father, and child. Having a child out of wedlock makes finishing school more difficult even if the school makes accommodations. It also makes having and holding a job much more difficult.
But our children and grandchildren are being taught in school and being inundated by the media that this is perfectly acceptable and normal. Those who cannot accept or adjust to the situation are the issue, not the poor decision by the young couple. But this one decision is the critical one that either sets one up for life or destroys your life.
Get this one right and many of the others fall into place, but we will get to that in more detail in the next article. But to reverse the trends in our society parents must start being parents, social media must be more responsible, teachers must really teach not indoctrinate, and children must absorb at least some of what they are being taught.