Advantages of large family sizesBy Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas
A most enlightened piece of legislation has been proposed by former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, with her son Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado Arroyo as co-sponsor. The bill amends Republic Act 8187, otherwise known as the Paternity Leave Act of 1996, and proposes that married male employees should be entitled to paternity leaves beyond the current limit of four deliveries and in all succeeding deliveries of their respective spouses.
The proposal is based on very sound scientific and moral grounds. Scientifically, it has been demonstrated by experts on child rearing that the involvement of fathers in the molding of children to become mature and responsible adults is completely indispensable. The common practice of leaving child rearing almost exclusively to mothers can result in personality defects. In fact, one of the major causes of same-sex attraction among males is the inability of fathers to relate to their sons. That is why, getting fathers involved in taking care of babies from the cradle is a move in the right direction. Paternity leaves are not just meant for gender equality. They address a very important psychological dimension of integral human development.
Secondly, extending paternity leaves to children beyond the fourth child is in keeping with the principle of giving parents complete freedom in deciding the number of children they want to have. The practice of limiting child-related privileges (including tax exemptions) to only four smacks of coercion. As the declaration made by various business organizations (e.g. MBC, FINEX, PCCI, COPE and MAP) clearly states: “While various parties and interested sectors may provide advice and guidance to parents on alternative choices regarding family size and the means to achieve their desired objective, we believe these are decisions ultimately for the parents themselves to make.” The State should not take sides on the very contentious debate about the interrelation between population size and inclusive economic growth. There are enough economists of various faiths or no faith at all who disagree with those who say that population growth is a major cause of mass poverty.
Without denying that families suffering from dehumanizing poverty need advice on how to limit their family sizes through morally acceptable means, I maintain that there are enough economic, psychological and social reasons to encourage those belonging to the middle- and upper-income households to opt for large family sizes that go much beyond the replacement rate of two children per fertile woman.
As can be observed in countries like Japan, South Korea, Singapore and practically all advanced European countries, the bias in favor of few or no children at all has led to serious economic problems related to the so-called inverted pyramid or demographic winter. There are serious labor shortages. Pension systems are in shambles. Local populations are being threatened by extinction while immigrants are taking over. There are sound economic reasons, therefore, to give enough incentives to families who can afford it to have larger family sizes. This will prevent the contraceptive mentality from setting in. Couples who are childless because of God’s will, however, can channel their paternal or maternal instincts through attending to the needs of other youth or to some other corporal or spiritual works of mercy.
Psychologically, growing up in a family of three or more children contributes to a more well-rounded personality. Having brothers and sisters helps an individual to develop social skills early in childhood. Through the proper parental guidance, children growing up with siblings can learn such virtues as generosity, self-sacrifice and thoughtfulness. I have read enough articles about the phenomenon of “the little emperor” syndrome in China in which the one-child policy has not only led to the economic problem of labor shortages already being experienced today but to the proliferation of narcissistic and psychologically unbalanced adult males who grew up with six adult creatures doting on each of them: two sets of grandparents and the parents themselves. It is quite a challenge to parents to raise what we call in the Philippines an “unico hijo” to become a law-abiding citizen who can always think of the common good after having grown up considering himself as the center of the universe.
Finally, from the Christian point of view, there are the words of Pope Benedict XVI in his General Audience on Nov. 2, 2005: “Families with many children constitute a witness of faith, courage and optimism…They give an example of generosity and confidence in God.” These words of the Pope are reminders of the time-tested tradition in the Church of having large families. It is a clear experience that God blesses the generosity of the parents, giving rise to decisions of a full self-surrender to Jesus Christ among their children as well as desires of being also parents of large families.
As many of us who grew up in the decades of the fifties and sixties experienced (we were seven in my own family), large families are full of human and supernatural vitality. Besides, when the parents reach old age they are surrounded by affection. My mother, who lived up to the ripe old age of 102, repeated unceasingly that her greatest happiness was to be surrounded by her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren until the last moment of her life.
For comments, my e-mail address is email@example.com.