New Wisconsin Law Requires Emphasis Nonmarital Parenthood Contributes to Child Abuse

A state senator from Wisconsin, Glenn Grothman, has become a target for media attention after introducing a bill that would require the teaching that, "nonmarital parenthood [is] a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect."

The relevant parts of the statute are as follows:

Section 1. 48.982 (2) (g) 2. of the statutes is amended to read: 48.982 (2) (g) 2. Promote statewide educational and public awareness campaigns and materials for the purpose of developing public awareness of the problems of child abuse and neglect. In promoting those campaigns and materials, the board shall emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.

Section 2. 48.982 (2) (g) 4. of the statutes is amended to read: 48.982 (2) (g) 4. Disseminate information about the problems of and methods of preventing child abuse and neglect to the public and to organizations concerned with those problems. In disseminating that information, the board shall emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect. [emphasis added]

I have seen several articles discussing the thought that this is an attack on single parenthood, and that nearly 1/3 of Wisconsin parents are single parents, but I'm not sure that characterization is entirely correct. Instead, it appears as though the attack is on children born out of wedlock. The motivation, then, is the desire to avoid the consequences that may stem from couples not being able to legally rely on each other and subsequently the person then becomes a single parent.

That being said, it is not clear how a child born out of wedlock necessarily equates with child abuse or neglect.

As one author put it, "To be fair, data reveals that there are more incidents of child abuse in households with only one parent than in households with two parents. But the data does not indicate that this factor is somehow more responsible for child abuse than the other factors listed above [e.g. alcoholism, etc.] so, again, why single this factor out to include in the state’s statutes and not the others?"

Senator Defends Child Abuse Proclamation

A local news agency talked with the Senator who introduced the bill, and he attempted to explain his motivations, stating that, in his opinion, the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board is failing to teach a traditional family with a mother and father at home is a better way of raising children.

"If you have a single mother or father living with their girlfriend or boyfriend, there's 20 times as great a chance for sexual abuse as if you had a child living with their natural mother and father," Grothman said.

Thus, I'm not sure the "nonmarital" language really captures what the Senator is trying to say.  Perhaps he should have stated something more directly along the lines of the fact that non-biological parents are more likely to commit abuse, and that the incidences of abuse in married families are much lower, thus marriage is one way of potentially cutting the risks of abuse to a child by a non-biological adult.

It will be interesting to see whether the law passes, and if so, whether any changes are made in its language prior to approval.