Latest research from the journal, The Family in America, Vol. 28, No. 1, June-August 2014. The journal is published by the Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society, Rockford, Illinois, USA.
Fractured at five
Some progressive social theorists have argued that it is family disruption, not family structure, that matters for children’s well-being. But a study of five-year-old children recently completed at Columbia University and Connecticut College indicates that although family disruption does hurt young children, family structure — regardless of stability — matters a great deal.
The researchers report that children born to married parents enjoy clear advantages over children born to unmarried parents. The researchers limn “a substantial marriage premium” for children born to married parents, a premium evident in “outcomes encompassing cognitive, behavioural, and health domains”.
“Children of unmarried parents,” the researchers note, “are … significantly more prone [than peers born to married parents] to anxiety/depressive symptoms, aggressive behaviours, obesity and asthma by age five”.
As much as progressives would like to take comfort in the mantra of stability, it is clear that children need the structure of an intact parental marriage.
Terry-Ann L. Craigie, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Jane Waldfogel, “Family structure, family stability, and outcomes of five-tear-old children”, Families, Relationship and Societies 1.1 (2012), pp.43-61.
Struggling to find love in the shadow of a failed parental union
A mountain of empirical evidence compels social scientists to acknowledge that children pay a high price when their parents fail in marriage — or when their parents never marry in the first place.
A study newly completed at the University of Denver now indicates that part of that price is the singular difficulty that children of divorced and never-married parents face as young adults trying to develop satisfactory relationships with their own romantic partners.
The researchers conclude that study participants with divorced parents experienced “lower relationship adjustment and more negative communication [in their own romantic pairings] than those with married parents”.
But parental divorce is only part of the picture. Given Census reports indicating that over 40% of U.S. children are now born to unmarried mothers, the researchers underscore the results of their own study on the difficulties these children face in developing healthy relationships.
Galena K. Rhoades et al., “Parents’ marital status, conflict and role-modelling: Links with adult romantic relationship quality”, Journal of Divorce and Remarriage 53.5 (2012), pp.348-67.
Growing up too fast — without Dad
Progressives never tire of professing their concern for children. However, their indifference to intact parental marriages is actually putting many children at grave risk as they take on adult roles for which they are not prepared.
The magnitude and character of this risk receive sobering attention in a study recently completed by researchers at Colgate University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
To map the psychological paths young people travel into adulthood, the researchers analyse data collected between 1995 and 2002 from a nationally representative sample of young adults ages 18 to 22.
Characterised by notably high psychosocial maturation and comparably high subjective sense of adulthood, the “early adults” account for almost one-third (31%) of the young people in this study. In contrast, the “late adults” — scoring low on both psychosocial maturation and subjective adulthood — account for just one-fifth (20%) of the young people surveyed.
Evident in both “early adults” and “pseudo-adults”, a precocious sense of adulthood may now be widespread among young Americans, the researchers believe, because of “exposure to media images of adult liberties unaccompanied by the experience of responsibilities. In self-definition, adult rights are not coupled with responsibilities, expectations, and positive regard from parents.”
What predicts the perils of precocious adulthood? The researchers trace a clear linkage between these perils and broken families, calculating that young adults growing up in something other than a two-biological-parent home run a 26% higher odds of developing an “early adult” profile than do peers growing up with two biological parents.
Janel E. Benson and Glen H. Elder, “Young adult identities and their pathways: A developmental and life-course model”, Developmental Psychology 47.6 (2011), pp.1,646-57.
Miracle-working angels vs. divorce-dealing lawyers
The benefits of growing up in an intact family may transcend the normal limits of human understanding. In a study recently completed at Williams College, sociologist Nicolette D. Manglos adduces evidence that, compared to peers from broken homes, adolescents and young adults from intact families are significantly more likely to report that God is working miracles in their lives.
Nicolette D. Manglos, “Faith pinnacle moments: Stress, miraculous experiences and life experiences in young adulthood”, Sociology of Religion, 74.2 (2013), pp.176-98.