Them Before Us is the name of a breakthrough book about the need for a global children’s rights movement written by Katy Faust and Stacy Manning. The team at Dads4Kids had the joy of helping organise Australia’s first Voice 4 Kids Summit in 2015. Katy Faust was the keynote speaker.
This historic event was held in the main committee room of Parliament House, Canberra. Katy Faust’s keynote speech about growing up as a child of divorce touched all our hearts and she is still touching hearts today.
John Anderson has recently released a long-form interview called “Putting Children First” with Faust and Manning the co-authors of Them Before Us. Watch this short video excerpt called “Fatherhood and Healthy Masculinity”:
John Anderson has done a brilliant book review at his Conversations website which tells the story well. (The numbers in brackets refer to the page numbers of Them Before Us.) Here are some parts of Anderson’s review.
Them Before Us – Introduction
Since the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s and the legislative changes that followed – especially no-fault divorce – the desires of adults have been the central concern in discussions regarding the modern family.
If an innovation to family law makes adults happier, so the logic goes, then their children must be happier too, for how can children be happy when their parents are not? Thus, over the past fifty years we have seen the rise of no-fault divorce, single parenthood, same-sex parenting, IVF, and commercial surrogacy. Overall, these have proven statistically and by testimony to be bad for children economically, psychologically, and socially.
What we need is a revolution in how we think about the family that places the needs of children above the desires of parents, a revolution that places them before us.
The modern myth: The only thing kids need to grow up healthy and happy are to be safe and loved.
We need to move away from talk of “parenting” and back towards talk of “fathering” and “mothering”, for gender matters in raising children.
One of the most unsafe situations children can find themselves in is when they are in a home that includes the (unrelated) male boyfriend of their mother, especially when they are left alone with that boyfriend.
The phrase “modern family” usually refers to family models in which the rights and needs of children have been sacrificed for the happiness of adults.
Family law needs to revolve not around adult desires, but children’s needs; and the reality is that children’s well-being hinges most on being brought up by their biological parents in a stable household.
Rights for Children
Children have unique rights based on their particular situation and vulnerabilities. The key right for children is, when possible, to be raised by their biological mother and father in a loving but stable household. Why do children have this right? Simply because we know that such an environment is most likely to bring about their long-term flourishing; or, put negatively, the deprivation of this is most likely to lead to their long-term detriment…
That mothers and fathers parent differently and complementarily is an inconvenient truth in our culture that draws no qualitative distinctions between married parents, de facto parents, same-sex parents, or single parents. But gendered parenting styles have their basis in biology…
But the importance of both a mother and a father is not just about parenting styles, it’s about children needing emotional connection with both male and female parents. Faust and Manning offer quotes from interviews with adults who recollect the loss they felt as children being deprived of the presence of either a mother or a father.
The impact of fatherlessness on young men is especially well documented. Mothers are good at setting boundaries, whereas fathers are good at enforcing them. Play and roughhousing with fathers also provides a healthy outlet for aggression. “The evidence tells us ’toxic’ masculinity is not a result of Dad’s influence, it’s a result of Dad’s absence.” (p. 66)
Biological Parents Matter
Studies carried out over decades reveal that the bond between parents and children is strongest when it is complemented by biology. For example, one Canadian study that looked at fatal beatings between 1974 and 1990 discovered that, appallingly, children were 120 times more likely to be beaten to death by their stepfather or mother’s live-in boyfriend then they were at the hand of their genetic father. (pp. 36–37)
Another study published in 2005 showed that young children who live in a household with an unrelated adult are at a nearly 50-fold risk of suffering a fatal inflicted injury. (p. 37) A 2010 study showed that children living with their mother’s boyfriend are “about 11 times more likely to be sexually, physically, or emotionally abused than children living with their married biological parents.” (p. 37)
Reflecting on all the data, the authors quote prominent family sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, who says one of the most unsafe situations children can find themselves in is when they are in a home that includes the (unrelated) male boyfriend of their mother. (p. 32)
Them Before Us is an important, evidence-based critique of our culture’s preoccupation with adult happiness even at the cost of children’s welfare. It is also a call to reinvigorate the health of marriage and the practice of adoption, as opposed to IVF and surrogacy…
If, as Faust and Manning say, civilisation depends on good mothers and fathers working together to raise children, then their challenge is imperative.
Cherish your children and your children’s mother because together you are your children’s future!
Yours for our children’s future,
PS. Registrations close for the Courageous Fathering Course this Friday 28 April by close of business.
Register now for Courageous Fathering online, starting Tuesday 2 May 2023.
Booking information here.