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Science & Additional Commentary 



We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

Impacting Family Policy

  • Efforts to support and defend the family should be encouraged as many constitutions around the world contain positive family language.  View constitutions.  

  • “Throughout the ages, political philosophers, social historians, and civic and religious leaders have praised the family as the foundation of the social order, the bedrock of nations, and the bastion of civilization.... The fact is that family is a universal and irreplaceable community, rooted in human nature and the basis for all societies at all times. As the cradle of life and love for each new generation, the family is the primary source of personal identity, self-esteem, and support for children. It is also the first and foremost school of life, uniquely suited to teach children integrity, character, morals, responsibility, service, and wisdom.” US Statement to the United Nations General Assembly at the 10th anniversary of the International Year of the Family.  

  • “The family is the seedbed of economic skills, money habits, attitudes toward work, and the arts of financial independence. The family is a stronger agency of educational success than the school. The family is a stronger teacher of the religious imagination than the church. Political and social planning in a wise social order begins with the axiom ‘What strengthens the family strengthens society’…. The roles of a father and a mother, and of children with respect to them, is the absolutely critical center of social force.”  Michael Novak, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.  

  • Nearly all policy decisions have some effect on family life. Some decisions affect families directly (e.g., child support or long-term care), and some indirectly (e.g., corrections or jobs).  ...[Ask] how will the policy, program, or practice:

    • support rather than substitute for family members’ responsibilities to one another?

    • reinforce family members’ commitment to each other and to the stability of the family unit?

    • recognize the power and persistence of family ties, and promote healthy couple, marital, and parental relationships?

    • acknowledge and respect the diversity of family life (e.g., different cultural, ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds; various geographic locations and socioeconomic statuses; families with members who have special needs; and families at different stages of the life cycle)?

    • engage and work in partnership with families?  Purdue University, Family Impact Institute, "The Family Impact Guide For Policymakers, Viewing Policies Through the Family Impact Lens."

  • Four ways that professionals can help family policy achieve serious standing in countries around the world are detailed below:

    1. Professionals could encourage decisionmakers to focus on the whole family rather than a single family member (e.g., only the mother or the father or one child) or a specific dyad (e.g., only the couple, mother-child, or father-child relationship).

    2. Professionals can communicate with policymakers about the value of investing in family policies by focusing on the contributions families make to society. Focusing on families is an effective and efficient means of generating productive workers and raising caring, committed citizens.

    3. Professionals can encourage countries to establish a locus for family policymaking—a specific agency, organization, or governmental body—that is designated with official responsibility for (a) promoting families as a priority for study, investment, partnership, and political action; (b) analyzing how families
      affect and are affected by policy; and (c) designing, implementing, and evaluating family policies.

    4. ​To encourage international exchange of ideas, professionals could write in books, journals, and reports about their experiences with family policy in their own country—what family policies have been put in place and what contributions they have made to families and society.

Providing evidence-based, family-focused information to decisionmakers has the potential to generate interest in and the momentum for developing policies and practices that can strengthen and support families ...across the lifespan. Communicating the value of families to policymakers can sound deceptively simple, but in reality can be quite complex and demanding. The fact that it is hard, however, does not mean it is not worth doing. Doing family policy can help turn family rhetoric into reality.  Karen Bogenschneider, Family Policy: Why We Need it and How to Communicate its Value, Prepared for the United Nations Expert Group Meeting on―Assessing Family Policies: Confronting Family Poverty and Social Exclusion & Ensuring Work Family Balance, New York City, New York, Sponsored by The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD)

  • Researchers have demonstrated the valuable role families play in promoting academic success, economic productivity, social competence, and so forth...Yet family considerations are rarely addressed in the normal routines of policy and practice. Pro-family rhetoric is not enough. The Family Impact Checklist is one evidence-based strategy to help ensure that policies and programs are designed and evaluated in ways that strengthen and support families...across the lifespan. This checklist can also be used for conducting a family impact analysis that examines the intended and unintended consequences of policies, programs, agencies, and organizations on family responsibility, family stability, and family relationships. Family Impact Institute, Purdue University, Family Impact Checklist: Using Evidence to Strengthen Families


  • Family Impact Checklist for policy makers:​

    • Principle 1. Family responsibility. Policies and programs should aim to support and empower the functions that families perform for society—family formation, partner relationships, economic support, childrearing, and caregiving. Substituting for the functioning of families should come only as a last resort. 

    • Principle 2. Family stability. Whenever possible, policies and programs should encourage and reinforce couple, marital, parental, and family commitment and stability, especially when children are involved. Intervention in family membership and living arrangements is usually justified only to protect family members from serious harm or at the request of the family itself. 

    • Principle 3. Family relationships. Policies and programs must recognize the strength and persistence of family ties, whether positive or negative, and seek to create and sustain strong couple, marital, and parental relationships.

    • Principle 4. Family diversity. Policies and programs can have varied effects on different types of families. Policies and programs must acknowledge and respect the diversity of family life and not discriminate against or penalize families solely based on their cultural, racial, or ethnic background; economic situation; family structure; geographic locale; presence of special needs; religious affiliation; or stage of life.

    • Principle 5. Family engagement. Policies and programs must encourage partnerships between professionals and families. Organizational culture, policy, and practice should include relational and participatory practices that preserve family dignity and respect family autonomy.   Karen Bogenschneider, Olivia Little, Theodora Ooms, Sara Benning, and Karen Cadigan, The Family Impact Handbook: How to View Policy & Practice Through the Family Impact Lens.

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