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The Benefits and Costs of Young Marriage

divorce, happiness, MARRI, marriage, National Marriage Project, young adults, youth 1 comment

By Pat Fagan, MARRI Senior Fellow
     Joshua Kelsey, MARRI Intern

There is an interesting debate going on between Ashley Maguire and Susan Patton on whether or not to marry young.

Patton argues that colleges harbor a great number of smart men, one only grows older after college, and it is generally a virtue for women to marry young.  McGuire disagrees with Patton and uses data collected by The National Marriage Project’s “Knot Yet” Report to prove her point that women should wait until their late 20s and early 30s to get married, because the lower the age at marriage, the higher the risk of divorce.

The research does indeed show that women who get married before the age of 20 face a proposed divorce rate of 52 percent.  It drops to 34 percent for women who get married between the ages of 20-23, and even lower to 14 percent for women ages 24-26.  Women who get married between the ages of 27-29 have a 20 percent chance of divorce and women who are 30 years or older only have an 8 percent chance of divorce.  Just looking at these percentages, one would agree that women should wait until they are approaching 30 to find a life partner.

However when one looks at the level of happiness within marriage another dimension comes forth:  

The risk of divorce and the risk of unhappiness may not follow the same trajectory, according to the Knot Yet Report.  Of women who marry before the age of 20, only 31 percent say they are very happily married.  Forty-six percent of women married between the ages of 20-23 report that they are very happily married, and 49 percent of women married between the ages of 27-29 report the same.  Forty-two percent of women who marry at 30 or older report being very happily married.  But, remarkably, a significantly higher 66 percent of women who marry between the ages of 24-26 report that they are very happily married.  No other age group even breaks 50 percent in the very happily married category.

So how are we to make sense of this data?

Looking at the divorce risk alone gives us the benefit of objective concrete reality.  Happiness on the other hand is a subjective and fluid measure.

The benefit of younger marriage is that the couple can mold their characters together rather than individually, while they are still young and flexible.  If they work at it, their virtues develop alongside each other and they learn to be more harmonious as they face the formative twenties with each other.

Many questions are left unasked in the Knot Yet report:

How chaste are they (a virtue with a big impact on marital stability); what are their intentions on children (are they family focused or self-focused as they go into marriage)?  What is their education attainment and GPA?  Hard work is a good indication of responsibility and dedication — qualities needed for a successful marriage.  

Developing norms for marriage in our new mobile age is a much needed discourse and both McGuire and Patton contribute to the discussion.  The data give us clues to behavior and behavior gives us clues to habits and virtue, but the data is still a fair distance removed from this last point: character.   When a young man of great character marries a young woman of great character and they are both working on developing the necessary virtues (good habits) to make the other happy and to make family life better, then the chance of divorce is rather remote.  Add in frequent prayer and worship (not addressed by the Knot Yet report) and divorce almost disappears.  Add virginity at marriage and you have a totally different ball game.  Add natural family planning rather than contraception and the game shifts even more.   When were these the norms?  What was marital stability like then?  For those who choose to build a strong future (as opposed to pining for a distant past) the norms are the same.

Those who marry young will indeed face many hardships as the pieces of their lives continue to come together during their twenties, so the divorce risk makes sense. However, our goal is to encourage intact and happy-healthy marriage in our nation. Perhaps the answer is therefore to encourage young marriage…if four things are present:

1) Both man and woman are educated.  Research shows the lower divorce risk for couples who have gone through the stabilizing and enriching experience of higher education (college degree).
2) Both man and woman have the virtue of chastity.  Couples who are concerned with chastity—before and during marriage—tend to be dedicated to relational health, intactness, and service.
3) Both are people of regular prayer and worship.
4) The couple talks through, and agrees on, the functions of the five big tasks (institutions)—family, church, school, marketplace, and government.  Marriage and parenting will be intertwined with these institutions, and conflict regarding them can quickly destabilize a marriage.
5) The man and woman come from healthy families.   Such couples have working models for dealing with hardship and living for a greater good than self.  If they don’t have such backgrounds, they must discuss the potential baggage and bad habits (of thought or feeling) that may encumber them.

If these five factors are in place, I suggest a couple should by all means marry young.  Life is full of adversity—it is simply about which adversities to take on.  The “adversity” of starting young is a natural good.  If you have all these things going for you, then “Go for it”.  Guys: she may be gone with someone else if you wait.  Ladies: the same for you too.  If a businessman comes across a really great deal does he wait? The great deal here is character.  Does he have it? Does she?

Electric Zoo, Family Structure, and Substance Abuse

crime, family, intact family, religion, youth No comments


By MARRI Intern
A week and half before their Labor Day music festival, Electric Zoo posted a notice on their blog encouraging their participant “party animals” to “keep the positive party vibes flowing by looking out for each other.” The post advised against illegal drug use but also outlined common signs of drug abuse and included a map of where to find on-site medical facilities. While many attendees may have followed this recommendation and enjoyed their weekend, a few attendees did not. Electric Zoo was forced to cancelthe third and final day of the event due to two tragic overdoses and a number of hospitalized attendees on the first two days.
Fueling the public’s negative reaction to the Labor Day fatalities is the professional history of the Electric Zoo’s founder. One of the founder’s partner clubs in Chelsea, Twilo, was shut down in 2001 following two fatal MDMA overdoses. The fact that both deaths at this year’s Electric Zoo were also reported as MDMA overdoses has certainly made this tragedy a bitter pill to swallow. But where do we draw the line? Can we put all the responsibility on the clubs which organized and repeatedly turned a blind eye to illegal substance abuse? Surely, we cannot ignore the freedom of choice exercised by club and party attendees to partake in the use of illegal substances.
Who is to blame? Society, the clubs, the victims, their parents? The breakdown of the intact married family has many far-reaching effects, including an increased propensity to engage in wrong and damaging behavior, such as illegal drug use. Recent trends indicate that most twelfth graders believe that the availability of, and access to drugs has become easier and easier. And while we all know that drug abusers can come from every background, MARRI Research indicates that children of divorce have a significantly increased risk of crime, as well as drug use. Additionally, research has shown that the more youth who worship weekly exhibit the least hard drug use.
So perhaps at the end of the day, we are left only with the tasks of mourning the precious lives lost and of determinedly perpetuating a culture of intact families who worship weekly, engender healthy values, and raise children who choose not to turn to substance abuse.

“I had a nice time. Let’s have sex.”

culture, marriage, sexuality, youth 2 comments

Maria Reig Teetor, Intern

“We must try before we make a commitment.” “Are you sexually compatible?” “How good is he/she in bed?” “Have you had sex yet?”These have become normal questions asked when you meet up with friends, go out to a bar or dinner party…abstinence is not in the vocabulary.

We live in a sexualized society, where life is measured by our emotions, feelings and sexual behavior. You only have to flip through the pages of Cosmopolitan or turn on your TV and watch L.A. Complex or Gossip Girl to understand that sex is what’s expected of you when you go out on a couple dates. 
When talking about abstinence or waiting for marriage to have sex, you think of your high school counselor, who talked about abstinence because as a teenager you aren’t ready to take up the consequences of what sex may entail, but once you’re in college or in the labor force, you’re immediately expected to sleep with your dates. 
This recently hit me, as I was sharing a drink with this attentive young man I met through a mutual friend. We were sitting at a bar enjoying a casual happy hour, talking about work, hobbies, siblings, aspirations…when as the evening was coming to an end he mentioned, “Where to next, your place or mine? Don’t worry, I’ll let you sleep over afterward.” As if letting me sleep at his house after we had sex was the chivalrous thing to do. The young man was stunned with my polite answer: “No thank you, I don’t do that.” At that very moment I was so thrown off I did not have a solid explanation to why I was not going to have sex with him.
 
I then understood that a lot of factors went into this assumption he made – it wasn’t that he was some abnormally forward or disrespectful young man. Rather, it is what society, peer pressure or his upbringing has taught him is the normal way of conduct.  But he was so stunned he called me for a whole week to try and go out again. He was searching for an answer to my no: Is it that you don’t like me? I am weird? Unattractive? I thought we had a good time? And we truly did. 
The only consequences of sleeping around that people dare to mention are unwanted pregnancies and sexual transmitted diseases, like HIV; but those are soon resolved with the notion of “as long as were safe we’ll be fine.” Which means that as long as one uses the pill, condoms or any other contraceptive method, we’re all free to sleep with whomever we desire.
I went on to wonder, besides these more obvious facts, have young people ever thought of our emotional vulnerability or the psychological damages that sleeping around might have? And the advantages of creating a solid long lasting relationship  when you wait for marriage?  
So today I wanted to skim through a few reasons why we shouldn’t give in to new era of “I had a nice time, let’s have sex” that we may have to deal with as soon as we’re on a date. 
First of all, this over sexualized culture backfires as it confuses the true meaning of love with lust. It induces people to marry for the wrong reasons. The emotional bonding that sex brings to the relationship creates a false impression of closeness between strangers and it can blind their judgment, inducing them to believe that this emotional and psychological bonding is caused by their love for one another when it’s mostly induced by their sexual activity.
Once you engage yourself in an active sexual relationship without a strong commitment, it tends to overtake the vast majority of the relationship, which means that you end up learning how to express  your emotions and feelings through your body and don’t strive to create a personal and intimate friendship which is the solid base of a good marriage. On the contrary, when there is no sexual activity, the couple is forced to spend quality time with one another, learning about their hobbies, desires, aspirations. They also learn how to verbally communicate and express what they are feeling or thinking. This will help them build up the base of their relation and when hard times come, they will not “fix the problem” by sleeping together, but by communicating. 
Another reason worth mentioning is that this culture of “fun and sex” reduces the value of our human sexuality, because it uses it as an exchange of products: we exchange our bodies for pleasure. This type of behavior reduces human dignity to a more animal way of acting. This is not the purpose of our sexuality, which is there to express our capacity of love and self-giving. 
And finally I wanted to note how by living out abstinence you are loving your future spouse, even if you haven’t met him or her yet, because you’re saving not only your body, which is an expression of yourself, but all that defines you as a person, your unique self being. Once you give yourself to that one special person, the fulfillment will be far greater than expected because it will not only be an act of pleasure but an act of complete surrender, self-giving and spiritual bonding. 
So when asked that question again, we could say, “No, I will not sleep with you, as my sexuality is not there to give, just out of mutual understanding, affection or desire. But to preserve for one person who is going to acknowledge it for its final purpose, the surrender and the total self-giving out of love and for love.” This type of surrender reaches its meaning within a profound commitment such as marriage.

Why Marriage Really Matters

marriage, sexuality, youth No comments
Eileen Gallagher, Intern
Yesterday advocates of same-sex marriage opened a campaigntargeted specifically at young people. The rhetoric and marketing skills of the new campaign are brilliant.
The war over marriage is being fought furiously on both sides, but advocates for same-sex marriage use words as their weapon and it seems inhuman to contradict them. For example, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a supporter of the new campaign, said:
“We believe in equality of opportunity rather than outcome. Most importantly, we believe that the individual and the family are the central engines in our society… It is about equality for all with no exceptions.”
On the website“Freedom to Marry,” there is a page called “Why Marriage Matters” featuring videos and stories of supporters saying these things:
“We are not here to judge each other. We are here to love each other.”
“Marriage is about showing people you’re committed to one person.”
“We wanted to get married for the same reason as everyone else, because of love, family, and making that commitment to one another.” 
The words they use are beautiful. Everyone believes in equality, love, family, and commitment. These are the roots of American and family values.
The movement catches everyone’s attention by using emotionally charged words, and now they are concentrating their efforts on the right group of people. While the formation of beliefs is a lifetime project, young people, usually from the end of their high school years and into their 20s, are especially forming their opinions and deciding what they believe in. Often children assume the views of their parents, but some do not, and others change their views on specific issues.
Topics such as abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage hit close to home in these years when many young people are “exploring their sexuality.” Those who are not themselves facing decisions about abortion or contraception certainly know people who are. This is the ideal time to try to persuade someone on these issues, because it is relevant to daily life.
The rhetoric and marketing skills of the new same- sex marriage campaign are brilliant, but their facts are wrong.
Young people are often drawn in by slogans, but they are captured by truth. Social science proves that an intact heterosexual marriage has the best results for children, and also for adults. The Marriage and Religion Research Institute shows, with social science, that there are 162 Reasons to Marry and states, “Marriage is the foundational relationship for all of society. All other relationships in society stem from the father-mother relationship, and these other relationships thrive most if that father-mother relationship is simultaneously a close and a closed husband-wife relationship.”
Hard data cuts through emotionally charged words and shows the truth about marriage. Now it is time for hard data to reach the same young people that the “Freedom to Marry” group is trying to reach.

Be careful what you wish for…

marriage, sexual revolution, sexuality, youth 1 comment

Betsy Huff, Intern

The issue of the oversexualisation of girls in our modern culture is one frequently written about in both popularand scholarlypublications.  It is a concern of parentsand psychologists alike.  In 2006 the American Psychological Association released a reportregarding this subject.  The report lists the many causes of the unhealthy sexualisation of young girls, most of them pertaining to media images in television, movies, and music. It also cites merchandise that is inappropriately suited for young girls, clothing such as thongs that are sold for girls as young as 7, toys that display scantily clad women, and advertising that creates an unattainable physical ideal. The APA encourages parents and teachers to be aware of the societal messages they are sending to their children, particularly in regard to physical attractiveness and self-worth.  APA reports that one of the most dangerous ways girls sexualize themselves is through self-objectification: “Psychological researchers have identified self-objectificationas a key process whereby girls learn to think of and treat their own bodies as objects of others’ desires… girls internalize an observer’s perspective on their physical selves and learn to treat themselves as objects to be looked at and evaluated for their appearance.” 
While I agree that the media can have toxic influence on women’s body image and sexuality, particularly young girls, I do not think it is the only place of blame. The sexual revolution has had a detrimental impact on sexuality in the nation as a whole; MARRI’s Family Trend Linesreflect some of these consequences. The sexual revolution has also caused the oversexualisation of young girls. The ideals it promoted,free love, sex outside of marriage, and the uninhibited use of contraceptives to allow for a lifestyle of promiscuity minus the physical consequences or risk, have not given women freedom in their sexuality, but have only created bondage.  Choice and freedom in sexual exploration have not gained women the respect and dignity as holistic human beings they desire, nor has it given them more power over their bodies and sexuality. Instead it has encouraged a hedonistic attitude toward sex. It has allowed men to continue objectifying women as nothing more than a source of sexual pleasure and women to objectify themselves in a feeble attempt to gain joy in their sexuality that only comes from the security and commitment of a monogamous relationship.
There are women who recognize this issue and are combating the oversexualisation of women in society particularly the media. Kara Eschbach, editor of the recently created Verilymagazine, speaks of the magazine’s vision for their particular audience of young professional women saying, “We are aiming to show style that respects our dignity, instead of compromising it; to explore our relationships, not just sex; and feature thought provoking articles, not just rhetoric.”  The solution to the objectifying of women in society is to promote and protect true femininity and sexuality in the framework of strong marriages and families.  Sexuality should indeed be celebrated, after all it was created and given to us by God, but it should also be protected and cherished in the sacred context in which it belongs.

The “Miracle” Drug

contraception, sexual revolution, women's health, youth No comments

Amanda Brennan, Intern
Growing up, I have distinct memories of TV commercials featuring happy, care-free women shopping or going out with friends, while in the background a voice told of the benefits of the latest birth control pill. Though I was clueless about the advertisement itself, I was struck by one phrase: “Have only four periods a year.” For a girl nearing young womanhood, the idea sounded brilliant! Yet, something always left me unconvinced and unsettled.
When the birth control pill came on the scene in the 1960s, it was intended to be the most reliable contraceptive to date. Now, an estimated 11.2 million women aged 15 to 44 use the Pill each year in the United States, as noted by the Guttmacher Institute. Oral contraceptive pills, or OCPs, do more than prevent pregnancy these days; they have additional uses for 58% of users. The study explained that 31% of women use them for cramping, 28% for regulating menstrual cycles, 14% for acne, 4% for endometriosis, and 11% for other reasons. It is believed that 1.5 million women use them without contraceptive intentions at all. The medical world has deemed OCPs “miracle” drugs, as they are prescribed more and more each day to treat health issues. But do these pills in cute packaging deliver healing, or do they wreak havoc on the female body?
With childhood reservations still in the back of my mind, I decided to look into the birth control pill Seasonale, which reduces the frequency of menstruation in a year. I wanted to know the true effects of artificial hormones on the body, specifically the brain. Seasonale’s mechanism of action, the “suppression of gonadotropins,” stuck out to me while searching the Physicians’ Desk Reference. Gonadotropins make up two hormones needed for development and reproduction, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Their production is controlled by gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which regulates the sex steroids testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone, thus, contributing to such things as male and female behaviors and maintaining a pregnancy. Usually, cells in the anterior pituitary gland of the brain called gonadotrophs emit LH and FSH, but OCPs manipulate their normal production.
In their recent article, Women’s Brains on Steroids, Drs. Craig H. Kinsley and Elizabeth A. Meyer ask, “What happens, then, when the female brain gets a significant and artificial dose of steroid hormone, either progesterone, estrogen or both?  We know what happens below the waist, the pregnancies prevented.  What happens above the neck, as this steroidal tsunami washes over the neural coastline?” They found their answer in a study featured in the Brain Research Journal that explored the impact of hormonal contraceptives on the brain at different points in a woman’s cycle. Though not detailed or large, the study found that the part of the brain controlling higher cognitive thinking abilities is affected more among women who take the Pill than among those who do not. Kinsley and Meyer point out that these changes may not always deliver positive results, since many women complain they do not feel like themselves after popping artificial hormones into their bodies via birth control pills. In the end, the authors conclude that “[t]he possibility that an accepted form of chemical contraception has the ability to alter the gross structure of the human brain is a cause for concern, even if the changes seem benign — for the moment…Like the rest of life, and like the steroid choices made by those ballplayers, there are costs and benefits.  The benefits are well established; the costs, however, are still coming to light.”
Now that the Pill is being used for more than just contraceptive purposes, people must ask if it delivers health or merely creates more problems. Rather than just blunt or prevent pain from cramping, shouldn’t a woman know what is causing her cramping in the first place? Rather than blindly take a pill that regulates menstrual cycles, shouldn’t a woman know why her body is out of whack (if, indeed, it is)? I don’t think swallowing pills that can alter brain function, even temporarily, is good medicine. Instead of turning to quick fixes deemed “miracle” drugs, we ought to work withour bodies and not against them. The underlying problems must be addressed with actual cures, not Band-Aids, as explained by Dr. Thomas Hilgers, MD, creator of the innovative women’s health science NaProTechnology.
There is more to scratch your head about than just the Pill’s impact on the brain. As MARRI blogger Katie Staudt mentioned in a recent post, a connection between contraception and the rising divorce rate (among other things) has been found. Furthermore, as high school students continue to be sexually active, more of them will turn to OCPs. As we show in MARRI’s Annual Report on Family Trends, birth control pill use by sexually active high school students rose was at 16% in. Still more young women may be taking the Pill for reasons other than birth control. If these pills can upset the normal functioning of a grown woman’s body, what impact can they have on a developing young woman’s body?
I’m left with one more question: If the use of birth control pills among young women solely for health reasons is increasing, is this not giving them the green flag on sexual activity? Well, it sure is giving them the tools for it.

Truth, in love.

abstinence, Christianity, MARRI, youth 2 comments
Obed Bazikian, Intern
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) recent video stated that “[e]ighty percent of young evangelicals have engaged in premarital sex” and “almost a third of evangelicals’ unplanned pregnancies end in abortion.” This is a staggering statistic, and one which raises some serious questions. Adelle Banks from the Huffington Post sought to address with her recent article. Most central of all, what should the evangelical response be to this erosion of chastity and rise in abortion? 
Evangelical Leaders have stated that “abstinence campaigns and anti-abortion crusades” are not having the same effect anymore. Furthermore, Banks claims the Christian youth are frustrated by the way the church has handled the issue of sex. One can hear that premarital sex is wrong, but that is not satisfying in a culture that is constantly conveying it is good to have sex before marriage. One Christian young mother stated, “The Bible says not to do it, but I think, for most people, they need more than that.…We want to know why. And most of the time folks aren’t prepared to answer the question why.”
 
One answer can be found in the social and medical sciences. The Marriage and Religion Research Institute’s 162 Reasons to Marry contains numerous studies that show those who wait to have sex within marriage are the most fulfilled sexually, emotionally, physically, and even materially than other marital statuses. However, while this truth must be presented, it must also be done in love. In the Gospel of John, Chapter 8, a woman who was caught in adultery is about to be stoned by her accusers, a punishment fully merited under the current Law. When confronted as to whether this punishment should be carried out, Jesus stated, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (NASB). While He had every right to, Jesus did not condemn this woman. Similarly, we might be “right” in our statements to others, but be wrong in our message. However, the truth, when presented in love, will make the difference we truly seek.

To Rebuild Society, We Should Rethink our Foundation

crime, culture, family, news, Pat Fagan, social institutions, youth 1 comment
By Julia Polese, Intern
On February 13th, New York Times columnist David Brooks examined the current trends in sociological study that have displaced economic and cultural determinism as the primary explanation for the weakening of the American social fabric. He explains that regardless of the origin of social disorganization – job loss, government growth, or abandonment of traditional norms – it continues through the generations. Disruption causes more disruption and weakening social fabric within certain communities can be tied not primarily to sweeping moral decay or the recession, but to sociological factors on as small a scale as a child’s attachment to his parents. “It’s not enough just to have economic growth policies,” he writes. “The country also needs to rebuild orderly communities.”
 
This trend points to a third route between the extremes of building the Great Society and subsidizing atomization. Sociological studies in the past several decades regarding crime and reasons for delinquent behavior have largely drawn from Social Control Theory, outlined by Travis Hirschi in 1969. In his seminal work, Causes of Delinquency, Hirschi broke with the preceding scholarly consensus by claiming that both delinquents and those who have not committed crimes share the same disposition to delinquency, but what differentiates them are their social bonds and relation to conventional society that constrain their baser passions. The sociologist named attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief as four essential aspects of a person’s development. Deficiency in one or more of these values can weaken one’s social bonds and, as many subsequent studies drawing from Hirschi’s theory have shown, lead to delinquent behavior. The key to social disruption is breakdown in relationships.
Brooks writes that in order to “rebuild orderly communities,” orderly people need to be cultivated. While the columnist proposes sometimes using the government to build “organizations and structures that induce people to behave responsibly,” these structures do not have to be created by tax codes and mandates to provide individual incentives to behave. Rather, the family structure can provide such an incubator for responsible citizenship. As the fundamental “orderly community” and basis of civil society, the family shapes a child’s belief in the norms around him, his attachment to others, and involvement in and commitment to the community.
 
“Social repair requires sociological thinking,” says Brooks, and the sociological data consistently has revealed the significant role the intact family can have in reweaving the disintegrating social fabric. However, sociological thinking must be done within the correct paradigm. Patrick Fagan, director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, states that “Sociology done well cannot but reflect the way God made man.” A correct anthropology in light of our state as fallen creatures must inform attempts at “social repair.” Sociology is reflective, but cannot be fundamentally reparative. Repair begins with grace from outside us that constrains our passions and reorders our will to what is good. The family is one means of such grace, and the data cannot help but reflect the goodness of this first structure.

Running Away, Religion, and Family Structure: Is Your Child a Flight Risk?

family, MARRI, marriage, religion, youth No comments
By Anna Dorminey, Staff

From our latest Mapping America publication (111: “Ever Run Away” by Current Religious Attendance and Structure of Family of Origin):

Adolescents from intact married families who worship at least weekly have an average runaway rate of 4 percent. By contrast, youth from all other family structures who never attend religious services have the highest average runaway rate, 15 percent. 11 percentage points is a significant difference! For more on the benefits of marriage and weekly worship, view MARRI’s other published Mapping Americas.

The Second Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection

child well-being, commitment, family, MARRI, marriage, poverty, single parents, youth No comments
By Anna Dorminey, Staff

Did you miss the release of our Second Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection? You can read it hereand watch the webcast of the event here!

An excerpt from the Index’s introduction:

The Index of Family Belonging was 45.8 percent with a corresponding Family Rejection score of 54.2 percent for the United States for the year 2009. The action of parents determines the belonging or rejection score: whether they marry and belong to each other, or they reject one another through divorce or otherwise. Rejection leaves children without married parents committed to one another and to the intact family in which the child was to be brought up.

Index Highlights:

· Only 45.8% of American children reach the age of 17 with both their biological parents married (since before or around the time of their birth).
· The Index of Family Belonging is highest in the Northeast (49.6%) and lowest in the South (41.8%).
· Minnesota (57%) and Utah (56.5%) have the highest Index of Family Belonging values of all the states; Mississippi (34%) has the lowest. The District of Columbia had an abysmally low Family Belonging Index score of 18.6%.
· Family Belonging is strongest among Asians (65.8%) and weakest among Blacks (16.7%).
· Once differences across states in Family Belonging, adult educational attainment, foreign-born residents, and population density are taken into account, differences in state racial and ethnic composition are no longer significant in accounting for variations in child well-being outcomes (the exception being that the proportion of Hispanics in a state is very significant in determining the number of births to unmarried teenagers).
· While the effects of government spending on high school graduation rates are curvilinear and offer diminishing returns, family belonging is positively and significantly associated with high school graduation rates.
· Family belonging and child poverty are significantly, inversely related: States with high Index values have relatively low child poverty rates, and vice versa.
· There is a significant, inverse relationship between family belonging and the incidence of births to unmarried teenagers.