GOOD MORNIN', AMERICA, HOW ARE YA'?
By Bob Slosser
-- It probably comes as no surprise to any observant person that the number of children visiting pediatricians' offices with recognized psychosocial problems more than doubled between 1979 and 1996.
Also an alarming increase in such problems, again something you might have guessed if you pay attention to such things, was noted in older boys in the 4-15 age group surveyed, in children from single-parent households, and in poor children.
It seems plain to me that society (meaning us) has developed to the alarming position of putting an absurd amount of pressure on our children. And I hasten to add that I am not criticizing single parents or poor children per se.
Most single-parent households got that way through divorce, which is abominable. And so many poor children are scrambling just to stay alive and find a chance to grow up.
These trends show up in a study reported in the June issue of Pediatrics, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which was named as the copyright holder of the press release about the study. So it was a serious study, done among 21,000 children, ages 4 to 15, who visited pediatricians' offices for non-emergency care. I saw little reporting about the study except in my hometown newspaper, The Virginian-Pilot, this past week. And the reporter, Elizabeth Simpson, did most of her reporting in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, naturally.
The whole matter is very important to places like Virginia Beach and Norfolk, where there are a lot of yuppie families, as well as a lot of people on Medicaid, including many poor families. And one gets the feeling just by watching and listening that there are an inordinately high number of psychologically disturbed kids -- attention-deficit hyper-activity disorders and emotional problems. And your heart breaks for them.
One of the authors of the report on the study, Dr. Thomas McInerny, described the situation perfectly: We need to be asking, "What is society doing to its children that is causing these problems, and how can we improve?"
The cause, doctor, is pressure, torment, fear -- all those things that crash in on the children of divorce or absentee parents. And divorces are caused by parents who don't care about anything but their own comfort and personal happiness. All families need a mother and father.
I come from a broken family myself and I still suffer the consequences -- I'm a little wacko sometimes. I ended up with a good parent and a good stepparent and I was not abused, but internally I was a wreck.
And I still suffer from the effects today. I have unbelievably high blood pressure when not treated, dysfunction in blood flow to my brain, peripheral neuropathy that almost makes me an invalid, and pain all over my body. I've had a stroke, which I attribute to working under ridiculously high pressure most of my 50 years as a journalist, trying to prove I'm worthwhile and equal to other professionals. All of that working time, plus my first 21 years growing up, was spent trying to get respect and acceptance, a condition I was left with when my parents -- both of whom I love -- were divorced.
We must help our children with psychological and social problems. They're wonderful human beings, God-created, but they can't handle the horrors of being torn between mother and father. And we've got to find more rewarding work for the poor -- primarily the blacks -- so they can legitimately work and raise their families out of poverty. Beloved, this is a private-sector, business-and-industry-sector issue, not a government-sector issue. The government, by itself, must not be the solution; that will lead to worse tyranny than we now have. It is a problem of American compassion, as Marvin Olasky wrote.
America is rich enough and smart enough to help its suffering children. Isn't there something this booming economy can do for them? Can't we try?
Jesus was asked by some Pharisees about divorce and the Mosaic willingness to grant a divorce decree. Moses, He said, permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery (Matthew 19:8-9, NIV). Jewish rulers of that time considered adultery a capital offense.
Bob Slosser welcomes your responses to his columns. He may be reached at email@example.com.