We’ve had a whirlwind of family weddings and engagements lately. At my nephew’s rehearsal dinner this weekend, my brother-in-law said in his toast, “There is great joy in commitment.”
So true! But…
Did you know that the U.S. Census Report showed fewer than half the homes in the Twin Cities are headed by married couples? In 2007, nearly four in ten births were to unmarried women, many of them in cohabiting relationships (National Center for Health Statistics). Today the nation’s retreat from marriage and the rise of cohabiting households with children is the biggest threat to the quality and stability of family life.
Wanting to defend marriage, the Archdiocese has decided to educate the youth. It has put together a team consisting of married couples and priests who will talk to high school students about why marriage matters. My husband and I are part of this crew (Can you hear my knees knocking?) and we believe it’s a great approach to this dilemma. The Archdiocesan initiative has required reading for us speakers, and I wanted to share with you some of the information we’ve learned about why children do best when raised by two married parents:
1) They will be healthier
In one Swedish study, boys who were reared in single-parent homes were more than 50% more likely to die from a range of causes–e.g., suicide, accidents, or addiction–than boys who were reared in two-parent homes. Parental divorce reduces a child’s life expectancy by four years, and there is a higher risk of infant mortality when parents are divorced. Interestingly, higher levels of children’s psychological problems are associated with cohabitation.
2) Less likely to live in poverty
Most children who are not raised by married parents will live at least one year in dire poverty (Between one-fifth and one-third of divorcing women end up in poverty). On the other hand, married couples appear to share more of their income and other property, and they get more support from friends, civic institutions and extended families. They also receive more wealth transfers from both sets of grandparents than do cohabiting couples (Single mothers almost never receive financial help from the child’s father’s kin). And a fascinating find: Married fathers increased their assets after babies were born, while single fathers saw their rate of asset accumulation decline. (Many studies show that married men earn 10%-40% more than their single counterparts.)
3) More likely to attend college
Interesting fact: Married couples contribute a median of $1,804 to college, divorced parents–$502, and remarried parents just $500. This could be a reason why children whose parents are married are more apt to go to college and have a lower unemployment rate. Plus, as adults, they have a higher rate of occupational status and earnings.
4)Less likely to be physically or sexually abused
How many times do you read in the newspaper that a child has been killed by the mother’s live-in boyfriend? Although boyfriends contribute less than 2 percent of nonparental childcare, they commit half of all reported child abuse by nonparents. Studies show that children living in single-mother homes have increased rates of death from intentional injuries. A study in Missouri found that preschool children were 47.6 times more likely to die in a cohabiting household, compared to preschoolers living in an intact, married household. And sadly, Preschool-aged children living with a stepfather are forty times more likely to be sexually abused than one living with both biological parents.
5) Less likely to use drugs or alcohol
Twice as many young teens living with single-mothers or a stepparent have tried marijuana. Teens living with biological parents are significantly less likely to use illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Why? Studies suggest children living with non-traditional families have more family stress, less monitoring from parents, and weakened attachment to parents–especially fathers.
6) Decreased risk of divorcing when they get married–or becoming unwed parents
Girls raised outside of intact marriages are three times more likely to become unwed mothers. When parents divorce they increase the odds that their children will divorce by at least 50%. So far, research shows that divorce affects three generations.
Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, said, “The long-term success and economic prosperity of societies depends upon the health of intact families.” The findings of the social sciences confirm that the best environment for raising children is a stable home provided by the marriage of their parents.
I also agree with my brother-in-law; that there is great joy in commitment. And this joy trickles down to the children. A happy marriage is a great gift that parents can give to their kids–it helps the whole family embrace life!
(Compiled using Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [visit http://www.foryourmarriage.org ] & Why Marriage Matters by the Institute for American Values [visit http://www.americanvalues.org ] )