Marriage Matters for Children – Research

Research published by the International Child and Youth Care Network Online Journal this month has supported the volumes of research already published showing that the very best environment for children growing up is with two continuously married parents.

Professor Paul Amato, Professor of Sociology, Demography and Family Studies at Pennsylvania State University first published a meta-analysis of studies dealing with the effects of divorce on children in 1991. This was updated in 2001, and this latest meta-analysis confirms what previous studies have found – that children with divorced parents continued to have lower average levels of cognitive, social, and emotional well-being, even in a decade in which divorce had become common and widely accepted, and not only during childhood but also in adulthood.

Compared with other children, those who grow up in stable, two-parent families have a higher standard of living, receive more effective parenting, experience more cooperative co-parenting, are emotionally closer to both parents, and are subjected to fewer stressful events and circumstances. 

Interestingly, cohabiting parents tend to be more disadvantaged than married parents. They have less education, earn less income, report poorer relationship quality, and experience more mental health problems. The risk of relationship dissolution also is substantially higher for cohabiting couples with children than for married couples with children

The research shows that single-parent families have an elevated risk of economic hardship, greater challenges in functioning effectively as parents, and greater exposure to stress due to their circumstances.

Negative outcomes for children can include academic failure and suspensions, delinquency, violent behaviour, the need for counselling, and suicide attempts.

The researchers recommend policies that strengthen marriage, decrease the rate of divorce, and lower non-marital fertility through promoting marriage and strengthening marital stability, but supplemented by policies that improves the economic well-being and strengthens the parent-child bonds of single-parent and stepparent households. This includes improving the quality and quantity of time that non-resident parents, especially fathers, spend with their children.

Family First looks forward to the Families Commission and the Commissioner for Children advocating strongly for marriage and its benefits, and promoting it at governmental policy level in the best interests of children and families.

The full research can be viewed here http://www.cyc-net.org/cyc-online/cycol-0707-amato.html
ENDS