Study: Children fare better with married parents

By WND Staff


A new study from the Center for Social Justice in the United Kingdom found a big difference for children whose parents are married compared to those who are cohabiting.

The study, “Family Structure Still Matters,” comes from the independent think tank that studies the root causes of social problems in Britain.

“Marriage has become a middle-class secret,” the report said. “Among high income couples (the top quintile) 83% have tied the knot; among low-income parents (bottom quintile) only 55% are married.

“This ‘marriage gap’ is a social justice issue, as our paper suggests.”

Including both same sex and traditional sex marriages in its analysis, “Family Structure Still Matters” shows that married parents are twice as likely to stay together as cohabiting ones.

“By the time they turn five, 53% of children of cohabiting parents will have experienced their parents’ separation; among five-year-olds with married parents, this is 15%. These differences matter because family stability has been shown to profoundly affect children’s outcomes.”

The report said, “Even when controlling for income and education, children raised in unstable families suffer worse health, are more likely to be excluded, more likely to join a gang.

“The cost of this to the [National Health Service], to the criminal justice system, and to the Treasury – in terms of lost revenues – is huge. Less quantifiable but equally corrosive is the impact on society: the anti-social behavior of even a tiny minority can erode trust and well-being among the majority.”

The problem is that the government considers the terms interchangeable.

“By ignoring this distinction, the government risks robbing couples of making an informed choice about what kind of relationship they should embark on.”

The report notes that there are several problems the government could address, including that the welfare system penalizes those who are married and benefits those who are single.

“Many slide into cohabitation out of convenience and financial pressures rather than out of an intentional decision to increase the commitment of their relationship. Yet sliding into cohabitation, which as an overall trend does not offer the same permanence as marriage, may lead to greater hardship caused by instability and more family transitions for those who are already struggling to get by,” the report said.

The report said more than half of the 4,500 children seen by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services cited “family relationship problems” as a cause of their trouble.

“The recommendation of this paper is for government to stop blurring the distinction between cohabiting and married couples: when they deliver dramatically different outcomes for children as well as parents.”

The British charity Christian Concern noted the study did not distinguish between opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

“Research has proven time and again the differences between heterosexual partnerships and homosexual partnerships and that the age-old theory that it makes no difference to parenting is wrong. In fact, homosexual relationships are far more likely to experience breakdown than heterosexual ones,” the group said.

“It would be more helpful for future studies to break down the types of relationship in terms of hetero- and homosexual marriages and cohabitations, as there is likely to be a difference in outcomes for the family,” the organization said.

But Christian Concern noted the “drastic effects” for children from family breakdowns.

The report said: “Parental separation at age 7 was found to have negative associations with behavior at age 13, even after controlling for previous wellbeing. Parents divorcing, especially when this results in losing touch with one parent, counts as an Adverse Childhood Experience, according to Harvard’s Centre on the Developing Child. Experiencing multiple ACEs, without the buffer of the continuous presence of a trusted adult, can cause toxic stress – over-activating the stress-response system, thereby causing wear and tear of the child’s brain and body.”

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