Them Before Us: The GOOD, the BAD, and the UGLY Side of this Book by Katy Faust and Stacy Manning


I really wanted to like this book by this Baptist pastor’s wife, Katy Faust and her friend, writer Stacy Manning. The title is fantastic. “Them Before Us” is a great motto and it sounds so promising. Parents and society in general should put children first. The slogan is fantastic.

But, sadly, that’s not what Katy Faust is really saying. What she’s saying is profoundly disturbing: That only married biological parents are fit to bring up children.

The goal of this book is to convince you that married biological parents are universally superior. They are fit and safe, and everyone else is suspect.


(NOTE: If you wish to see a slightly shorter version of this review on Amazon, go here. If you find it helpful, please upvote it. I was not allowed by Amazon's Review team to mention that this book, Them Before Us, had won the "Book of the Year" award from an extremist hate group, Ruth Institute. Keep reading, you'll find out why near the bottom.)


Although Faust admits that a biological parent might be abusive (p. 52, Kindle), throughout the rest of the book she never tells one story where the abuser is a biological parent.

And that’s just not realistic. A wedding ring on the finger doesn’t instantly make people good, emotionally healthy, loving and kind.

As a Christian divorce recovery leader in Evangelical churches since 1998, I’ve seen it a lot of people who are married, and even claim to be devoutly Christian, but are abusive.

Them Before Us engages in double-speak: The author states on page 54 (Kindle) that the majority of stepparents and romantic partners are not abusive or neglectful, but for the next two pages she tells horror stories: one about an evil stepmother who favors her own daughters over the stepdaughter, then another where she says that stepparents secretly hate their stepchildren (p. 55, Kindle).

Faust tells her own story right up front (p. 20, Kindle). Her mother and father divorced (but she is silent as to the reason). Later her mother fell in love with a woman and the two have been partners ever since. Faust describes her mother’s home with her partner as “stable and conflict-free.” She and her mother’s partner are friends, and she loves her. She describes the divorce as a difficult rollercoaster of losses and transitions.

She may view her own parents' divorce as "selfish," but that doesn't mean all divorces are initiated by selfish parents who put their own whims ahead of their children's best interests. (p. 48) Many divorces are lifesaving. Although Faust does condone divorce for direct child abuse, extreme cases of abuse, adultery, and abandonment, she doesn't talk about the scientific research that shows that children who are experiencing and observing abuse, tension, and high conflict in the home (often due to character issues such as addictions, infidelity, or spousal abuse) are being damaged day after day, year after year. About 1 in 3 divorces involving children is truly beneficial for them—truly lifesaving.

Faust seems to have turned out well despite her parents’ divorce. I didn’t find any description of substance abuse, binge drinking, teen pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, or dropping out of high school. She’s happily married to a Christian leader today.

This young woman — a child of divorce — is successful. She is also typical. Nearly 8-in-10 kids of divorce turn out “average, very well, or outstanding,” with no lifelong psychological, emotional, or social problems. Yet she has an entire chapter dedicated to ending no-fault divorce, which would make it even harder for abuse and infidelity victims to get away and find relief and safety.

Faust’s book exaggerates the very slight differences between children of married parents and children of single parents. Often the book doesn’t use real numbers when those stats aren't very dramatic. Instead of showing us figures, the author uses the phrase “more likely to ______ [have some bad outcome]” dozens of places in the book, which sends the message that the difference is major. This is a very common tactic among marriage-at-any-cost proponents. I've got more examples in my video on their shadowy tactics.

For example, the graph on child abuse is misleading (p. 59). It has been magnified by a factor of 50, otherwise the reader might miss the differences in abuse rates between married parents, single parents, and stepfamilies. Only a handful of biological married parents and stepparents commit criminal-level child abuse. Most homes are good or at least good enough.

The book says that nearly every stepparent or romantic partner (except a biological parent) is a significant risk to the children (p. 57). They might abuse and even kill them.

This is a quote from the book:

“Chillingly, research reveals that the question isn’t whether unrelated adults pose an increased risk, but rather how much risk they pose” (page 57).

Also, there is a horrifying example that would be humorous if it weren’t so sickening:

The authors used a study from the 1980s to suggest that two-parent married families were better for kids, stating, “children were 120 times more likely to be beaten to death by their stepfather…”  (p. 57).  In real numbers, that study found that about 4 in 10,000 preschoolers in Canada were killed by a stepparent per year. We all agree: this is deeply evil and tragic. But when you look at the real numbers, you see that  9,996 of every 10,000 step-parents in Canada did not kill a preschool stepchild.

The author claims to have studies that prove her view.  But she is spinning half-truths. She omits the conclusions of many of the researchers she quotes. Those researchers (Dr. Paul Amato, Dr. Sara McLanahan, Dr. Linda Waite of Institute for Family Values, the ACE Study’s Felitti, and Dr. Judith Wallerstein) and their conclusions don’t support Faust’s overarching message.  These researchers found that divorce was likely better for children where there was violence, hostility, or high-conflict, regardless of whether the divorced parent stayed single or remarried.

If you look at the footnotes and read the studies for yourself, you discover that kids in single parent or stepparent homes fare about the same or only slightly worse than in a married two-parent home, on average. The differences aren’t as vast as Faust makes out.

Here’s another major fact she doesn’t tell you. Dr. Paul Amato, whom she quotes extensively on p. 110, found that children whose parents divorced had 10 times greater wellbeing than children whose parent “stayed for the kids” in a highly toxic married home (compare -.37 to -.03 on a 1.00 wellbeing scale). Yet there are multiple pages where she predicts horrible fates for kids of divorce.

In interviews she conducts, the author found some people whose parents were so abusive, they wished they had been raised in a single parent or even in a loving gay home, but Faust dismisses their stories, giving them just a line, because they don’t conform to her ideology of children requiring two biological married parents. (p. 48). So ironically, Faust's ideology enables abuse. It appears she doesn't care that much about kids' safety. But she sure cares about her own worldview.

By the way, Dr. Sara McLanahan, author of a 1997 book criticizing fatherless homes (p. 53), changed her mind and now agrees with the Jaffee study, a large twin study in the UK, that found that biological fathers who have multiple anti-social traits and reside with their children increase the likelihood that those children will develop conduct disorders from 1 in 33, to 1 in 8.

Dr. Judith Wallerstein, whom the author cites on pages 109 and 112 was in favor of divorce where there was conflict or hostility or indifference. Wallerstein objected to religious voices that suggested that divorce was universally destructive to children. Wallerstein said she wished judges knew that observing abuse had a powerfully negative effect on kids.

I could go on and on. I’ll probably write a longer review going claim by claim when I have time. Especially how she doesn’t seem to understand that no-fault divorce saves lives, as a Harvard Quarterly Journal of Economics article showed. (In states where no-fault unilateral divorce was passed, it reduced suicide by 8-16%, domestic violence by 30%, and homicide by 10%). My short review doesn’t even scratch the surface. Faust mentions the ACE study, but fails to tell you about all eight adverse childhood experiences, focusing mainly on "divorce." Elsewhere, others have written critically about her reliance on the work of the much-disputed sociologist, Mark Regnerus, but I’ll let them unpack that. (Okay, you twisted my arm, here's a link to a letter written by 200 sociologists critiquing the Regnerus paper.)

Several times the author tells us the solution is simple!
Just tell the chronically abusive and neglectful biological married parent to snap out of it and behave better for the sake of the kids. Imagine! Just a bit of “professional help and accountability” will do it (p. 111)!  Voilá! Why didn’t anyone think of this! (Sarcasm.)

This is a boatload of wishful thinking. A person in church ministry ought to be a realist. It’s nearly delusional to promise change where there is a long-term pattern of abuse, betrayal, and selfish disregard for the interests of everyone else in the home, including the children. What's even more surprising is that the board chair for her organization is a licensed mental health provider.

By the way, half of divorces in the U.S. are for very serious character issues: a pattern of sexual immorality, physical abuse, chronic emotional abuse, domestic violence, criminality, life-destroying addictions, or abandonment/neglect. And 1-in-4 highly religious couples in the U.S. have experienced interpersonal violence, according to the pro-marriage conservative think tank, The Institute for Family Studies, and their senior researcher Bradford Wilcox, whom Faust repeatedly quotes in her book.

Finally, Faust’s “Global Children’s Rights Movement” is based on the belief that only biological married parents are fit and safe to bring up children because only bio moms and dads have a gender-exclusive way of parenting. Nothing else will do. She demeans anyone who doesn't fit in this category by tweaking the way she presents data to make them look dangerous.

So by her standards, if you’re not married AND you don’t share DNA with the child, you are substandard.

—Sorry, loving single grandparents!

—Sorry, emotionally healthy stepparents.

—Tough luck, brave widows!

—Sorry, nurturing single mothers and fathers.

—Go away, caring boyfriends and girlfriends who are willing to sacrifice for the kids!

—Same for you, solo adoptive parents. You just don’t cut it.

(By the way, Faust never mentions the word "widow." Is that consciousness of guilt? Perhaps she knows people would object to her coldhearted views applied in this situation?)


To Faust, only married people who are fortunate enough to be fertile are fit to have and bring up kids.

Faust accuses other people of promoting eugenics, but eugenics is exactly what she is promoting, deciding who is—and who is not—fit to have and raise kids.


Bottom line: This book is not recommended for someone in a destructive marriage. It will convince them that they MUST stay with an abuser because any other option will destroy their kids. That just isn’t true.


NOTE: Katy Faust's book has won the "book of the year" award from an extremist hate group, Ruth Institute. Yet she has been asked by Focus on the Family and the Colson Center to give a live seminar on March 15, 2022. (Likely to be posted on YouTube with the #LighthouseVoices hashtag.) That tells you how Focus on the Family has drifted since Jim Daly became president. He too wants to pass laws to make divorce harder to get, even for abuse victims, infidelity survivors and wives of pedophiles. And Focus on the Family does not condone divorce for domestic violence, EVER, no matter how horrifying. Read about it here:

Here is Focus on the Family's announcement:

Focus on the Family promotes an author whose book won an award from an extremist hate group.
Focus on the Family promotes an author whose book won an award from an extremist hate group.
Katy Faust accepts “Book of the Year” award from an extremist hate group, the Ruth Institute. Book: "Them Before Us."

The board chair of Katy Faust's organization is Christian Bringolf of Burien Counseling of Burien, Washington.

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Does God Hate Divorce? God Gave Divorce Due to Hardhearted Abusers & Betrayers


Physical and Emotional Abuse & Infidelity

God Allows Divorce to Protect Victims


How to Find a Good Supportive Church


What If My Pastor Says It Would Be Wrong to Get Divorced for Abuse?



Divorce Saves Lives: The Surprising (Wonderful!) Truth About Divorce Nobody Told You

Will I Ever Find Love Again? Dating After Divorce: Good News

Finding Happiness and Health After Divorce


Thriving After Divorce: These Christians Tell their Stories

Self-Doubt, Second-Guessing Ourselves, and Gaslighting

Children and Divorce: Researchers Give Hope


High Conflict Divorce and Parenting

Recommended Reading List and Free Resources for Christians and Other People of Faith


Common Myths






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