30 Years of Research: A Child Deserves a Mother and a Father

Nobody to our knowledge has actually counted all the studies supporting the value of married mother/father headed families.

They are too numerous to count and there are few topics within the social sciences that enjoy more numerous and diverse published research documentation from the world's leading scholars than how married mothers and fathers impact child well-being.

That said, we offer just a sampling of conclusions by various, universally recognized scholars and child-advocacy organizations on what the research says about which family form best contributes to healthy child development:

  • James Q. Wilson, one of the world’s brightest and most well-respected social scientists, wrote a very important article on the importance of marriage recently. He says:

    "Almost everyone—a few retrograde scholars excepted—agrees that children in mother-only homes suffer harmful consequences: the best studies show that these youngsters are more likely than those in [mother/father] families to be suspended from school, have emotional problems, become delinquent, suffer from abuse and take drugs."

    He explains that some of the difference in these children, perhaps half, can be explained by the economic difference of living without a father. But, he explains, “The rest of the difference is explained by a mother living without a husband.”

  • Two leading mainstream child-advocacy organizations recently sought to understand which family form best elevated child well-being outcomes. Their conclusions found that married mothers and fathers in low conflict marriages accomplished this important task best.

  • The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), found:

    "Most researchers now agree that…studies support the notion that, on average, children do best when raised by their two married biological parents… Research indicates that, on average, children who grow up in families with both their biological parents in a low-conflict marriage are better off in a number of ways than children who grow up in single-, step or cohabiting-parent households."

    This paper can be found at:  http://www.clasp.org/resources-and-publications/states/0086.pdf

  • In addition, Child Trends concludes:

    "An extensive body of research tells us that children do best when they grow up with both biological parents in a low-conflict marriage… Thus, it is not simply the presence of two parents, as some have assumed, but the presence of two biological parents that seem to support child development." (Emphasis in original)

    This paper can be found at: http://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/rb_032601.pdf

  • A diverse team of family scholars working collectively from the Universities of Texas, Virginia, Minnesota, Chicago, Maryland, Washington, UC Berkeley, and Rutgers University recently reported on the multiple benefits for children who live with their own married parents. In general, within this family structure, children:

    • Live longer, healthier lives both physically and mentally.
    • Do better in school.
    • Are more likely to graduate and attend college.
    • Are less likely to live in poverty.
    • Are less likely to be in trouble with the law.
    • Are less likely to drink or do drugs.
    • Are less likely to be violent or sexually active.
    • Are less likely to be victims of sexual or physical violence.
    • Are more likely to have successful marriage when they are older.

  • Sociologist Paul Amato, writing in a study published jointly by Princeton University and the Brookings Institute, explains,

    "Specifically, compared with children who grow up in stable, two-parent families, children born outside marriage reach adulthood with less education, earn less income, have lower occupational status, are more likely to be idle (that is, not employed and not in school), are more likely to have a non-marital birth (among daughters), have more troubled marriages, experience higher rates of divorce, and report more symptoms of depression… Research clearly demonstrates that children growing up with two continuously married parents are less likely than other children to experience a wide range of cognitive, emotional, and social problems, not only during childhood, but also in adulthood."

    This paper can be found at: https://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/docs/04_01_08.pdf  

    Sara McLanahan of Princeton University, one of the world’s leading scholars on how family form impacts child well-being, explains from her extensive investigations:

    "If we were asked to design a system for making sure that children’s basic needs were met, we would probably come up with something quite similar to the two-parent family ideal. Such a design, in theory, would not only ensure that children had access to the time and money of two adults, it would provide a system of checks and balances that promote quality parenting. The fact that both adults have a biological connection to the child would increase the likelihood that the parents would identify with the child and be willing to sacrifice for that child and it would reduce the likelihood that either parent would abuse the child."

  • Additional research can be downloaded here.

The research is clear: If we are concerned about elevating the well-being and life opportunities for children, we must be concerned about the health and strength of the two-parent family.  

A thriving marriage culture is vital for children, adults and all society. So we’ve created unique resources to help you pass on the value of marriage to your children and grandchildren. The following article in this series links to these resources that are filled with helpful and creative ideas.

Download a free sample from “The Family Project”

The 12-week small group experience called “The Family Project” leads families on a journey to explore God’s design and purpose with topics ranging from marriage and sexuality to serving God within the context of family relationships.

Download a complete sample of Session Two, “Let Us Make Man (Imago Dei)” from The Family Project now!

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