Eugenics Must Begin with the Family: Paul Popenoe

From David Popenoe in War Over the Family p 235-236 (regarding his father, Paul Popenoe):

In keeping with the decline of hereditarianism in American intellectual life, Paul Popenoe gradually shifted his professional efforts from genetic improvement to family improvement.  With the help of some influential financial donors, he started the American Institute of Family Relations (then called the Institute of Family Relations) in 1930.  At first a one-man operation, it grew over the decades into an organization with as many as seventy counselors and by 1977 claimed to have counseled over 300,000 men, women, and children.  Here is what he later said was the connection of this new enterprise with his earlier biological interests:  “I had the idea that to improve the race, we should first start with the family.  And since the family often suffers problems which threaten its stability, we must treat those problems.  In other words, we should establish a marriage counseling center where maladjustments might be brought, studied, classified–and helped if possible.

He is said to have coined the term “marriage counselor,” although he admittedly borrowed it and the idea behind it from Germany, where marriage counseling had been first developed in the 1920s.  […] In keeping with his no-nonsense personality, the marriage counseling he conducted and promoted was highly directive.  […]

While he maintained most of his Victorian values to the end, in other respects he was a progressive in his field.  Among the many instances that come to mind, he was an early and vociferous advocate of both birth control and sex education in the schools, at a time when these were considered by many to be the height of moral decadence.  He was a strong believer in the importance of fathers, urging them to take a more active role in their children’s upbringing.  And, according to a Time Magazine article in 1956, he devised with Art Linkletter the first computer dating service for Univac.

Late in my father’s career his growing isolation from a changing American culture became ever more apparent.  Throughout most of his life, for example, his closest associates were leading scientists and professionals.  Considered a mainstream figure, he shared with them both a strong scientific approach toward life and a philosophy of familism.  Yet by the late 1960s and 1970s his younger colleagues were mostly religious conservatives.  Many of his assistants at the Institute were ordained ministers or other devoutly religious people from such denominations as the Baptists and the Mormons (one was Dr. James C. Dobson, now president of Focus on the Family), and a large portion of the hundreds  of marriage counselors trained at the Institute in those years were clergymen.  My father was no more religious than ever, but these were his new professional and ideological allies and protegees.  The elite of the rapidly growing professions, meanwhile, had headed in an entirely secular and individualistic direction, one that dismissed “bourgeois moral values,” stressed cultural relativism, promoted self-oriented therapeutic ideologies, and seemed to favor self-fulfillment over family obligation.  In a final irony, after years of battling the Roman Catholic Church over such issues as birth control and sex education he came to think of it, too, as an ideological ally.  The Church, in his mind, was at least on the pro-family side.

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