What led you to start writing about how social science data broadly support traditional understandings of marriage and family?

I had a baby right out of college. This was at the height of the happy talk about how the retreat from marriage represented only change, not decline. I got personally interested in this set of issues because I found, like most single mothers, that well before the time my son could be responding to social stigma, he started asking, "Where is Daddy?"

About the same time, I began to see the beginnings of what has become a mountain of social science data on both the rise of fatherlessness and family fragmentation and the negative consequences of these things. My background is as a journalist. So I have had the pleasure of working with a number of extremely intelligent and prominent scholars who have, over the past two decades, grown increasingly concerned about what our high rate of family fragmentation is doing to our children and our community.

You seem to argue for re-establishing fatherhood in our society through the idea of male headship.

I don't know that I would see male headship as the primary strategy. But I firmly believe that mothers and fathers both matter a great deal to their children, and that marriage is the way that you get that for children. You cannot raise a generation of men to be good family men unless you tell them that husbands and fathers matter a great deal.

One of the things sociologist Brad Wilcox shows is that conservative Protestants, who are the only group of people actively advocating for male headship in our society and for a strong vision of gender difference, oddly enough turn out to produce husbands and fathers who are more like the "new man," that is, a warm, engaged, ...

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Editor's Bookshelf
David Neff
David Neff was editor in chief of Christianity Today, where he worked from 1985 until his retirement in 2013. He is also the former editor in chief of Christian History magazine, and continues to explore the intersection of history and current events in his bimonthly column, "Past Imperfect." His earlier column, "Editor's Bookshelf," ran from 2002 to 2004 and paired Neff's reviews of thought-provoking books and interviews with the authors.
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