family3Though many in our society will say differently, regardless of how much money a single parent makes, being raised by a married couple (meaning Mom and Dad, it’s unfortunate that I have to add a qualifier).  W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist, wrote an article entitled “The Kids Are Not Really Alright” for Slate Magazine.  He wrote:

Take two contemporary social problems: teenage pregnancy and the incarceration of young males. Research by Sara McLanahan at Princeton University suggests that boys are significantly more likely to end up in jail or prison by the time they turn 30 if they are raised by a single mother. Specifically, McLanahan and a colleague found that boys raised in a single-parent household were more than twice as likely to be incarcerated, compared with boys raised in an intact, married home, even after controlling for differences in parental income, education, race, and ethnicity. Research on young men suggests they are less likely to engage in delinquent or illegal behavior when they have the affection, attention, and monitoring of their own mother and father.

But daughters depend on dads as well. One study by Bruce Ellis of the University of Arizona found that about one-third of girls whose fathers left the home before they turned 6 ended up pregnant as teenagers, compared with just 5 percent of girls whose fathers were there throughout their childhood. This dramatic divide was narrowed a bit when Ellis controlled for parents’ socioeconomic background—but only by a few percentage points. The research on this topic suggests that girls raised by single mothers are less likely to be supervised, more likely to engage in early sex, and to end up pregnant compared with girls raised by their own married parents.

It’s true that poorer families are more likely to be headed by single mothers. But even factoring out class shows a clear difference. Research by the Economic Mobility Project at Pew suggests that children from intact families are also more likely to rise up the income ladder if they were raised in a low-income family, and less likely to fall into poverty if they were raised in a wealthy family. For instance, according to Pew’s analysis, 54 percent of today’s young adults who grew up in an intact two-parent home in the top-third of household income have remained in the top-third as adults, compared with just 37 percent of today’s young adults who grew up in a wealthy (top-third) but divorced family.

Why is this? Single mothers, even from wealthier families, have less time. They are less likely to be able to monitor their kids. They do not have a partner who can relieve them when they are tired or frustrated or angry with their kids. This isn’t just a question of taking kids to the array of pampered extracurricular activities that many affluent, two-parent families turn to; it’s about the ways in which two sets of hands, ears, and eyes generally make parenting easier.

Kids need a mom and dad, which is why we must do all we can to celebrate, promote and protect marriage.  It simply makes families stronger.

HT: Wintery Knight

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  1. Good article; but to suggest that the missing element is the benefit of extra “monitoring” of a child makes the argument that children need a mom and dad…what difference does it make WHO does the monitoring? It’s the sense of abandonment that children experience which leads to a search for significance that is BEST found in the company of two parents (male and female) who love each other and their children.

    1. That’s a good point about the monitoring–it’s far more than just that.  In an ideal family, the mother provides feminine love, and the father provides masculine love.  Kids need both to develop into healthy adults.  The mother’s role is crucial during infancy, and also during the first few years of a child’s life.  The father’s role is crucial during adolescence.  Whether we enter adulthood adequately affirmed as persons depends on the love and acceptance we receive from a father or father substitute.   Of course, there is never a time when a mother or father isn’t important, but their roles become more crucial for children during those particular periods. 

      When a child has both parents in a loving family, he or she has all the “fertilizer,” if you will, necessary to develop into a healthy adult. So this article makes total sense.

  2. Are you advocating for a law against divorce/unmarried childbearing? Not only does the research support a law like that, but there’s biblical backing as well.

Comments are closed.

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