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Quick Facts About the Breakdown of Marriage and Family

Do we need an institution that unites kids with their moms and dads?
Yes or no?

Since 1980, the marriage rate is down about 45 percent.

• 41 percent of children are born to unmarried mothers (73 percent for African Americans)1
• 71 percent of poor families are not married2
• Marriage decreases the probability a child will live in poverty by 82 percent3

Take away marriage, and you expose children to the risk of coming into the world as strangers, untutored by fathers or abandoned by mothers, a condition of effective abandonment in which they may remain for the rest of their lives.”

~ Roger Scruton
Essay from The Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market, & Morals

Fatherlessness

  • Fatherless or single parent homes produce children who are
    • 2 times more likely to be arrested for juvenile crime4
    • 2 times more likely to be treated for emotional and behavioral problems5
    • 2 times more likely to be suspended or expelled from school6
    • 33 percent more likely to drop out of school7
    • 3 times more likely to end up in jail by age 308
  • Compared to a married mother and father,9 children living with an unmarried mother
    • and biological father are 4 times more likely to be sexually, physically or emotionally abused, and 3 times more likely to be physically, emotionally, or educationally neglected;
    • and a boyfriend are 11 times more likely to be sexually, physically or emotionally abused, and 6 times more likely to be physically, emotionally, or educationally neglected.

The effects of marriage breakdown on children continue into adulthood.

  • Compared to intact families, children raised by single parents are
    • 50 percent more likely to suffer poverty as adults10
  • Compared to intact families, girls raised by single parents are
    • 2 times more likely to have a child outside of marriage11

Attitudes about marriage call for need to promote the reality of marriage

  • High school seniors: 56 percent — OK to be unmarried and have children12
  • 18- to 39-year-olds: 30 percent — “Marriage is very important if a couple has children together”13
  • 18- to 29-year-olds: 44 percent — Marriage is obsolete14

Do we need an institution that unites kids with their moms and dads? Yes or no?

1 Center for Disease Control, National Vital Statistics, 2009.
2 Robert Rector, “Marriage: America’s Greatest Weapon Against Child Poverty,”
Heritage Foundation, 2010, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2010/09/marriage-america-s-greatest-weapon-against-child-poverty.
3 Ibid.
4 Chris Coughlin and Samuel Vuchinich, “Family Experience in Preadolescence and the Development of Male Delinquency,” Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 58, no. 2 (1996): 491–501.
5 Deborah A. Dawson, “Family Structure and Children’s Health and Well-Being: Data from the 1988 National Health Interview Survey on Child Health,” Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 53, no. 3 (August 1991): 573–584.
6 Wendy D. Manning and Kathleen A. Lamb, “Adolescent Well-Being in Cohabiting Married, and Single-Parent Families,” Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 65, no. 4
(2003): 876–893. Data from Add Health study. See also Dawson, “Family Structure and Children’s Health and Well-Being: Data from the 1988 National Health Interview Survey on Child Health.”
7 Timothy Biblarz and Greg Gottainer, “Family Structure and Children’s Success: A Comparison of Widowed and Divorced Single-Mother Families,” Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 62 (May 2000): 533–548.
8 Cynthia C. Harper and Sara S. McLanahan, “Father Absence and Youth Incarceration,” Journal of Research on Adolescence, Vol. 14, No. 3 (2004), pp. 369–397. Data from National Longitudinal Study of Youth, the 1979 cohort (NYLS79).
9 Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, U.S. Dept. Health and Human Services, 2011.
10 Rector, “Marriage,” Heritage Foundation.
11 Ibid.
12 Bradford Wilcox, State of our Unions, Marriage in America 2009, data from University of Michigan, http://www.stateofourunions.org/2009/index.php.
13 Gallup Poll, May 2006. http://www.gallup.com/poll/23041/americans-complexrelationship-marriage.aspx.
14 Pew: The Decline of Marriage and Rise of New Families. November 2010. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2010/11/18/the-decline-of-marriage-and-rise-of-new-families/