the study of marriage

Friday, January 20, 2006

Family structure clearly influences educational outcomes for U.S. children

The Institute for American Values has released a research brief which summarizes the findings of a comprehensive literature review done at the University of Chicago to look at the effects of family structure on educational outcomes in the U.S. To quote from the brief:
A comprehensive review of recent academic research shows that family structure — whether a child’s parents are married, divorced, single, remarried, or cohabiting — is a significant influence on children’s educational performance. Family structure affects preschool readiness. It affects educational achievement at the elementary, secondary, and college levels. Family structure influences these outcomes in part because family structure affects a range of child behaviors that can bear directly on educational success, such as school misbehavior, drug and alcohol consumption, sexual activity and teen pregnancy, and psychological distress. There is a solid research basis for the proposition that strengthening U.S. family structure — increasing the proportion of children growing up with their own, two married parents — would significantly improve the educational achievements of U.S. children.

Specific examples of outcomes?

  • "For instance, three- and four-year-old children growing up with their own married parents (or in an “intact” family) are three times less likely than those in any other family structure to experience emotional or behavioral problems such as attention deficit disorder."
  • "Fourth grade students with married parents score higher on reading comprehension, compared to students living in stepfamilies, with single mothers, and in other types of families."
  • "Family structure substantially influences outcomes such as high school dropout rates, high school graduation rates, and age at first pregnancy. For example, young people from non-intact families are significantly more likely to drop out of school, compared to students living in intact families."
  • "For young people, growing up without their own married parents is linked with lower college attendance rates and acceptance at less selective institutions. Young people, especially women, who grow up with their own married parents tend to marry later. Research has shown a link between delayed marriage and higher educational attainment among young women."
  • "Teenagers from non-intact families are more likely to be sexually active. There appear to be no significant differences in sexual behavior between adolescents from stepfamilies and those from single-parent families."
  • "Being in a stepparent or single-parent family at age 10 more than doubles the odds of a child being arrested by age 14."

The researchers suggest that "these findings about family structure and children’s educational outcomes should encourage policy makers and social leaders to think creatively about supporting marriage in ways that will allow more of our youngest citizens to succeed educationally and flourish socially."

I think it's also reasonable to suggest that each of us married folk should work harder on the marriages we've already got, and get the word out to the people around us that staying married is GOOD for kids.


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