On Paternity Leave & Rebuilding the Family

Dear Editor SIR,

It is with jubilant hope that I write to you today. To congratulate the government on the recent announcement regarding the updating of the terms of maternity leave, the introduction of paternity leave, and leave for newly adoptive parents via changes to the Staff Orders of 2004.

Though the details are being fine-tuned, in principle, allowing parents to spend more time with their newborn babies or newly added children in the case of adoptive parents is excellent. It demonstrates rightly that parenting and family life are valuable to national life and a unique moment in the life of individuals with direct national implications.

The Details
For decades now, the Jamaican family has been languishing, battered and broken in many ways; especially as it relates to fatherlessness; which remains a significant root of violent crime. The inclusion of paternity leave provides an incentive for fathers to identify themselves; a matter which itself has some value. The details of the inclusion criteria have the possibility to do even more to strengthen the family unit. If paternity leave only applies to husbands, this will be a major boost to an institution that has the ability to contribute to the stabilization of the social fabric of our nation which is in significant disarray; the institution of marriage. In my humble estimation, this would be the best bang for the government’s buck, in terms of a benefit to the nation. But even if it applies to common law unions as well, though the statistics are clear that the positive national implication is much less than from marriage; it still has some value. ‘Sperm-donors’ certainly have no place at this table, I pray the details make this abundantly clear; as fathers who are committed to being absent should not even even have a whiff of a benefit. Indeed they are the fathers of violent crime in Jamaica; a stain on our society.

The Stats
Frankly, what we have before us is an opportunity to shape the Jamaican family and in doing so, heal our very broken society. The role of law in the shaping of national life should not be underestimated. The most important question is: “What impact will this law have on the nation?”. If the law is congruent with the reality of the highest possible benefit that marriage offers to the nation; and therefore incentivizes marriage above any other relationship; one can logically expect an increase in marriages and children being born in that context. Would that really benefit society?

Consider these facts:

1. On Academic Success. Children of married biological parents have the highest scores in Math and English (Avg. GPA of 2.9) compared to cohabiting parents (Avg. GPA of 2.6) and any other family structure. (Patrick F. Fagan, National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, 2006)

2. On Fighting. Less children from intact married families (28%) have ever have been in a fight compared to children from homes with cohabitating biological parents (36.7%) and other family structures. (Patrick F. Fagan, (National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, 2006).

3. On scamming. Adolescents living in an intact married family (at 13%) less frequently steal than adolescents living with cohabitating parents with one biological parent (at 19.8%) and less than any other family structure (Patrick F. Fagan, National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, 2006).

4. On Crime. Married men are less likely to commit crimes. (Ryan D. King, Michael Massoglia, and Ross McMillan, “The Context of Marriage and Crime: Gender, the Propensity to Marry, and Offending in Early Adulthood,” Criminology, 2007).

5. On Poverty. Children from intact married families and married stepfamilies are less likely to live in poverty than children from other family structures (Survey of Consumer Finance, Federal Reserve Board, 2007).

It is bold pro-family steps like extending maternity leave, introducing paternity leave (exclusively for husbands) and for newly adoptive parents that will truly help us to become the country to live, raise families and do business.

Dr. Daniel Thomas
Love March Movement

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