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By Scott Yenor, First Things, 10 . 18 . 21

Scott Yenor is a Washington Fellow of the Claremont Institute’s Center for the American Way of Life and author of The Recovery of Family Life: Exposing the Limits of Modern Ideologies.

Many factors influence decisions to marry and have children: prevailing religious commitments, ideas of beauty and honor, vanity, hope or confidence in the future, the cost of having children, the willingness to bear burdens. A country’s sexual ecosystem—the network of opinions, manners, and laws that shape a people’s attitude toward marriage—also affects how many people marry and how (and even whether) they become mothers and fathers. We cannot take marriage and family life for granted in a society that does not honor either.

Our modern sexual ecosystem is hostile to marriage and the family. Easy access to pornography, no-fault divorce, and our sexual harassment regime have changed what we expect of men and women. Powerful ideologies stigmatize enduring, life-long marriage as oppressive. Increasingly, young people decide that the sacrifices and duties involved in family life are not worth it. As a result, marriage rates and birth rates have plummeted in this country. The COVID birth rate plunge is part of this larger trend away from parenthood. …

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