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Opinions contained in The Iona Blog are not necessarily those of The Iona Institute. The Iona Blog is open to anyone who broadly shares the views of The Iona Institute. If you wish to post a comment on a relevant topic please email 200 – 400 words to [email protected] and it will be considered for inclusion in the blog.

More on US divorce rate (Tom O'Gorman)

Last week, we highlighted statistics suggesting that the US divorce figures had been dropping significantly for the past 25 years. However, the rate used was divorces per thousand people. To calculate divorce as a percentage of marriage, you would have to know the number of divorces per thousand marriages. According to this article, the detailed figures necessary to make this calculation are no longer available.

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Time to throw off religion? (Alan French)

Is our modern civilisation founded on the Enlightenment? Is our world the product of 18th-century agnostics throwing off the shackles of medieval superstition and church control? Or were there positive Christian forces at work as well?

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Family diversity day? (David Quinn)

There is a proposal afoot to celebrate 'family diversity' each May 15. Family diversity is a concept with a nice, soft ring about it. Diversity is a good thing, surely? Well, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. For example, the various political parties currently vying for our vote are a fairly diverse bunch, but are they all equally good, or perhaps equally bad? If they are, then a vote for one is as good (or as bad) as a vote for another.

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Notes from the Fourth World Congress of Families (Tom O'Gorman)

The fourth World Congress of Families, held this year in Warsaw, concluded on Sunday. Having attended the Congress as an observer, I thought it appropriate to share some musings on the weekend's events.

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Marriage breakdown equals pre-nups? (David Quinn)

The CSO released more details the other day about marital status in Ireland. It repeated that divorce is up 70 per cent in just four years.

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The ideology of choice (David Quinn)

A mother writes to The London Times seeking advice. She works full-time but her three-year old son is exhibiting behavioural problems such as tantrums when she leaves the house each morning. She is wondering whether she should quit work.

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Secularism in Turkey on warpath (David Quinn)

Secularism, like religion, comes in many forms. In its mildest incarnation it is along the lines of what we currently have in Ireland, meaning the State does not impose its will upon the Church or vice versa.

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Demand for childcare in UK overestimated, says columnist (Tom O'Gorman)

Amongst the many debates that have exercised voters and politicians here over the past few years has been that of childcare. All sides seem to agree that childcare is good, and that we should have more of it. But in the UK, there seems to have been something of a rethink.

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God and Man at Harvard (David Quinn)

According to The New York Times the number of religious believers among university students in America is on the increase, including at mighty Harvard. Unless this is a fad, it will have a knock-on effect into American society at large, and because America is so powerful, into the rest of the world. Harvard, after all, is the most prestigious university on the planet, and its graduates matter.

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Bishop Burke v. Sheryl Crow (David Quinn)

The following comment comes from the 'Mirror of Justice' website and is worth a read because it deals directly with one of the issues of concern to The Iona Institute, namely the right of religious believers to take part in the political process as religious believers, that is, without having to leave their religiously-informed moral beliefs at home. It involves a clash between between Archbishop Raymond Burke of St Louis, and the singer, Sheryl Crow.

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Psychologist at odds with evidence on impact of parenting (Tom O'Gorman)

The argument between nature and nurture and their relative importance has been around since man has been scratching his head in a cave. Which is more important? Judith Rich Harris, a US psychologist, believes she has the answer. Along with Richard Dawkins and other determinists, she says, it's the genes, stupid.

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Some musings on the Accord marriage survey - (David Quinn)

The Catholic marriage agency, Accord, has just published a very useful survey on the attitude of young couples towards marriage and the family. Seven hundred couples who have got married since 1999 were surveyed and the survey found that, on the whole, they are very optimistic about marriage, would recommend it to others, believe that children benefit from fathers as much as from mothers etc.

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Delaying children (David Quinn)

Latest figures from the CSO show that the more affluent a woman is the longer she will delay having children, and the poorer she is, the sooner she will have children.

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Clean break divorce – or not? (David Quinn)

What should we make of the concept of the clean-break divorce? When a couple go their separate ways wouldn't it be better if the divorce settlement is a once and for all affair with no opportunity to come back and re-open the wound?

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The teachers' unions and our schools (David Quinn)

The teachers' unions are pressing hard for changes to the way religion is taught in our schools which remain overwhelmingly Catholic/Christian. In the light of the opinion poll released on Monday about levels of religious knowledge in the general population you might think he has a point. Obviously something's not getting through.

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Does declining religious knowledge matter? (David Quinn)

The poll on religious knowledge co-sponsored by The Iona Institute and the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland received as much coverage as we could have hoped for. In the various radio programmes I appeared on subsequent to its release the toughest question was this; so what? That is, so what if a growing number of young people know next to nothing about Christianity? So what if they don't know what Easter is about, so what if they don't know where Jesus was born, so what if they don't know the First Commandment?

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Day care versus parent care (David Quinn)

A new study, already mentioned on this site, shows that day care in the region of 30-35 hours a week can be harmful to children. The study has been conducted by Sandra Mathers and Kathy Sylva of the University of Oxford and is called the National Evaluation of the Neighbourhood Nurseries Initiative.

The response of The London Times to it is interesting. Its leader of April 5 basically tries to minimise any alarm people might feel about its findings.

The key paragraph says: “Yet the report's authors carefully point out that pre-school children are better with their speech, numerical and motor skills from an earlier age. Pre-schooled children are also more confident and make friends easier.”

Well, that would be true, of course. Obviously the earlier you start learning to read and to do maths the better you'll be when you start formal schooling. Also, the earlier you start mixing with people your own age, the better prepared you'll be for this also when you start formal school.

But what do you miss out on? Do you become less securely attached to your mother? I'm not sure, but if the answer is yes, than this is far more important than receiving a probably temporary boost in maths etc. The ability to emotionally attach to someone is absolutely essential to secure emotional development in later life, including the ability to attach to your own spouse and children. If this is damaged by too much day care, then it is a very high price to pay.

In any event, the Times' leader seem to imply that while 30 or more hours of day care may be bad for a child, too few hours may also be bad given the apparent educational and social advantages of some day care.

Therefore, the Times' ideal formula for the proper rearing of children would appear to be around 30 hours a week of day care, followed by 10 hours a week (during week days) of parent care. Or to put it another way, too much time with Mum might actually be a bad thing.

Of course, if day care is so beneficial up to 30 hours a week, then why not make it compulsory?


Teachers conference shows growing concern about work/life balance (Tom O'Gorman)

A British teacher's union, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), is the latest body to highlight the political salience of the quality of life agenda. The union, which is holding its conference in Bournemouth this week, has heard a number of speakers warn that longer working hours were harming the balance between life and labour.

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Cohabitation figures may be affected by increased immigration (Tom O'Gorman)

Looking at the Census figures, a number of facts stand out. One is the huge increase in the rate of marital breakdown, which has received extensive treatment on this site. Among the other notable trends, however, were the significant increase in the number of people cohabiting and the huge increase in the number of immigrants.

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UCD debate on children's rights referendum brings out some useful points (Tom O'Gorman)

Last night's debate in UCD on the Government's proposed referendum on children's rights saw some useful interventions, the most significant of which can be found on the news section of this site. The contributions of Professor Gerry Whyte and Justice Adrian Hardiman were especially illuminating.

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"If I were asked to design a system for making sure that children's basic needs were met, we would probably come up with something quite similar to the two-parent ideal...The fact that both parents have a biological connection to the child would increase the likelihood that the parents would identify with the child and be willing to sacrifice for that child, and it would reduce the likelihood that either parent would abuse the child.."

Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur, "Growing up with a single parent: What hurts, what helps."