Monday, March 19, 2012

The Organization of Children

Continuing from a past week's theme on marriage, today I will go more in depth on children.  First I must confess that the title seems a bit preposterous, but it makes up for it in its aptness.  The best way to describe the interaction of the court system with families is the social organization of children.  The root of the preposterous nature is of course that we like to think that children are spontaneously organized.  This fits the dichotomy of things being planned or spontaneous.  Perhaps some examination on what seems to be an obvious question is in order.

For starters, the dichotomy should be explored and credence should be attempted to be given to it.  On the spontaneous end, there is a nontrivial number of children brought about by unions that fill a spectrum from the partners completely not knowing each other to vague familiarity.  The children of these unions have variously been raised by grandparents, other relatives, placed for adoption, raised by one of the parents, and raised by both parents.  On the planned end of the spectrum, we have the children brought forth in marriage.  These marriages have been arranged, romantically voluntary, or spontaneous, those being shotgun or voluntary.  These children have predominantly been raised by both parents or by one parent with the support of the other, with or without divorce.  Mostly depending on poverty level or premature death, the introduction of grandparents or other relatives has been been known.

I think the historical record would support there being a distribution.  I have had the tendency of wanting to romanticize about a time and place where all children were planned, but the older I get, the less I'm able to support those fantasies.  Several big changes have occurred in the past two generations.  The first is that the orphanage system has collapsed over night.  The second change is that women are able to support themselves without resorting to prostitution.  The third change has been the ability to obtain and enforce court orders.  Specific to the last change has been DNA profiling.  That has turned ascribing fatherhood to a nontrivial task.  As far as the orphanages went, we should keep in mind that society became horrified by them.  I say that as a caution to those who would have us move immediately back to them.

Whether we are no longer victims to our biology and whether this is a good thing are both interesting questions.  I'm afraid I won't quite get to them here.  As a father, I kind of like having a system that ensures I can see my children without a court order.  Perhaps I would be happier being able to have sex with whomever I wanted.  Of course this system was already in place.  Adultery has had varying levels of tolerance in different times and places.  If statistics are to be believed, a third to have of all married partners have had adulterous relations today.  At least in that respect, it does not seem we are being held captive to our biology.  There is the question of maintaining relationships that aren't otherwise desired.  Even here, we are just talking about the state (society) putting their thumb on the scale and making one choice more attractive than the other.  In the end, I'm going to come down on the side of stability for children.  I think when spontaneous organization occurs, it is prejudiced toward that end, and so I am more likely to support it.

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