Children and Two-Parent Families

August 21, 1998

Do children do better in an intact two-parent family? Princeton sociologist Sara McLanahan didn't think so, until she looked as the data. She remembers reading a three-part series in The New Yorker magazine that angered her. The articles argued that many of the ills besetting America's children had a common theme: single parenthood.

McLanahan believed you could explain the conclusions in a different way. She set out to prove that economic factors could account for the negative effects. Instead, she and Gary Sandefur at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that family income could only explain about half of the problems. Here's what else they found.

First, children from one-parent families are about twice as likely to drop out of school as children from two-parent families. Second, girls from single-parent families were 164 percent more likely to have a child out of marriage. And it they did marry, their marriages were 92 percent more likely to dissolve compared to their counterparts from two-parent families.

Third, many studies have shown correlations between children from single-parent families and higher incidences of violent crime and burglary. Finally, they also found that poverty correlated with single-parent families as well. As one researcher put it, "The vast majority of children who are raised in a two-parent home will never be poor during childhood. By contrast, the vast majority of children who spend time in a single-parent home will experience poverty."

McLanahan and Sandefur concluded that the best family system to raise children is one with two adults who can provide time, energy, and money while also providing a system of checks and balances. You know, it kind of sounds like the blueprint God designed back in the book of Genesis.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.

© 1998 Probe Ministries International