Among the most distressing news stories are those featuring
mothers suspected, accused or convicted of killing their children or of
standing by while their infants were fatally abused.

Florida woman Casey
Anthony
(pictured), charged with killing her two-year-old daughter Caylee, has been
brought to the attention of the world by the media circus surrounding her
trial.

In New Zealand, Macsyna King, the mother of twins who are
believed to have died at their hands of their father (acquitted for lack of
evidence) is being touted as the country’s “most hated mother” as an inquest
resumes and news of a book-length interview with Ms King sparks a 48,000 strong
Facebook campaign against it’s distribution.

Despite decades of feminism and gender role revision, we are
still more shocked when mothers neglect, abuse and especially kill their
children. But one does not have to look far into the lives of most of these
women to find that the other side of the sexual revolution — what’s politely known
as the “evolution” of the family — has played a significant role.

Casey Anthony is a single mother, living with her own
parents, the father of her child nowhere to be seen, although there have been
rumours of incest. Macsyna King was cohabiting with her twins’ father, Chris
Kahui.

The stresses of single parenthood, with or without boyfriends, are well known. And the
dangers of cohabitation for children are becoming clearer all the time. A
recent US federal government study of child abuse and neglect shows the
dramatically increased risks for children living in a home where there is an unrelated
boyfriend — and even with their own parents if they are cohabiting.
Sociologist Brad Wilcox comments:

This new federal study indicates
that these cases are simply the tip of the abuse iceberg in American life.
According to the report, children living with their mother and her boyfriend
are about 11 times more likely to be sexually, physically, or emotionally
abused than children living with their married biological parents. Likewise,
children living with their mother and her boyfriend are six times more likely
to be physically, emotionally, or educationally neglected than children living
with their married biological parents. In other words, one of the most
dangerous places for a child in America to find himself in is a home that
includes an unrelated male boyfriend—especially when that boyfriend is left to
care for a child by himself.

But children living with their own father and mother do not fare much better
if their parents are only cohabiting. The federal study of child abuse found
that children living with their cohabiting parents are more than four times
more likely to be sexually, physically, or emotionally abused than their peers
living in a home headed by their married parents. And they are three times more
likely to be physically, emotionally, or educationally neglected than children
living with their married biological parents. In other words, a child is not
much safer when she is living in a home with her parents if her parents’
relationship does not enjoy the legal, social, and moral status and guidance
that marriage confers on relationships.

But still experts such as New Zealand’s new Children’s
Commissioner
are afraid to mention the M-word:

Dr Wills sees his priorities in the job as “the
priorities we all have – child poverty, parenting, family violence, child
abuse, the educational tail, and teenage suicide, motor vehicle accidents and
pregnancy”.

He has done a good job with gearing health professionals to
look for signs of and risks for child abuse — in a country with high single
parent and cohabiting and abuse rates — but what a pity not to raise awareness of the
more basic issue: the importance of mariage.

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet