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Tag Family Weaknesses

Tag Family Weaknesses

Black Income Mobility: Racism or Family Culture?*

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As a young psychologist in the early 1970s I learned that resolving the conflicts between the married parents led to “spontaneous” recovery for 90% of the children referred to me for treatment — without any direct treatment of the child. Restore order in the parent’s marriage and the children’s internal chaos and its resulting symptoms disappear.

One recent “progressive theme” in today’s discourse is racism targeted at Black Americans. A very good example from some of the best, brightest, and well-intentioned journalists can be seen in this New York Times Upshot article, entitled Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys”.   A similar piece on income mobility by ethnic background, using the same data set appeared a week later.

Before I criticize the direction of the articles because it avoids the most compelling data, let me be loud in my praise of the journalists and the analysis they are doing. It is wonderful. The New York Times must be praised for giving them the resources to do this quality of work. I invite you to use the it, by playing around with variables they make available.

Now let’s look at their case for racism against Blacks

1)    Looking at those who start out in the bottom quintile (the poor) clear ethnic disparities become apparent when I ran the numbers on their site. Black children struggle the most at making it into the “rich” quintile in adulthood and while (37%) stay in poverty (though American Indians do worst at 45%).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2)    Looking at those who start out in the top quintile (the rich) clear ethnic disparities are also apparent: Black children do worst at staying rich in their adulthood.

Is this racism?

The NYT editors clearly think so, given their title for the article “Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys” and by their quoting a professor who preaches this message:

“One of the most popular liberal post-racial ideas is the idea that the fundamental problem is class and not race, and clearly this study explodes that idea,” said Ibram Kendi, a professor and director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. “But for whatever reason, we’re unwilling to stare racism in the face.”

I think the professor should study the articles and the data again: Some of the analysis and one of the charts points to the elephant in the room no one wants to name: marriage. It is politically very incorrect and flies in the face of the “progressive” interpretation of the data.

For instance, the article points out:

“The authors [of the underlying study from which the NYT data is drawn] including the Stanford economist Raj Chetty and two census researchers, Maggie R. Jones and Sonya R. Porter, tried to identify neighborhoods where poor black boys do well, and as well as whites. —The few neighborhoods that met this standard were in areas that showed less discrimination in surveys and tests of racial bias. They mostly had low poverty rates. And, intriguingly, these pockets — including parts of the Maryland suburbs of Washington, and corners of Queens and the Bronx — were the places where many lower-income black children had fathers at home. Poor black boys did well in such places, whether their own fathers were present or not. — The few areas in which black-white gaps are relatively small tend to be low-poverty neighborhoods with low levels of racial bias among whites and high rates of father presence among blacks [emphasis added]. Black males who move to such neighborhoods earlier in childhood earn more and are less likely to be incarcerated. However, fewer than 5% of black children grow up in such environments.”

These neighborhoods are found in parts of DC and Maryland… close enough to where Professor Kendi of American University works.

But not everyone is happy with the implication that marriage might have something to do with it:

“That is a pathbreaking finding,” said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard sociologist whose books have chronicled the economic struggles of black men. “They’re not talking about the direct effects of a boy’s own parents’ marital status. They’re talking about the presence of fathers in a given census tract.”

But here is the stark reality: Marriage is making the difference in virtually every case (for Blacks, Whites, Asian Americans, Hispanics and Whites). Marriage is non-racist: its benefits apply across all races and its absence hurts across all races. But its absence is greatest in the Black family. Add to this the compounding effects of intergenerational marriage-intactness or non-intactness and the power of marriage and the destructiveness of its absence is multiplied.

The huge differences in rates of family intactness are visible in this NYT chart.[1]

On rates of marriage the poorest whites do better than the richest blacks. Poor white boys have a much higher chance of having their father present than rich black boys do. Is this racism?

Here is the national data across ethnic groups, from the American Community Survey (annual mini-census).

    These ratios have remained relatively stable over the last decade, and it is worth noting that the rate of marriage among Black men in 1965 when Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote, The Moynihan Report: The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, was as high, if not higher than in the Asian family today (our most intact ethnic group). The following data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics illustrates the fall in marriage rates by level of education among black men aged 25-54 between 1070 and 2010.

From the analysis MARRI did in 2013 we know that marriage rates between the rich districts and the poverty tracts of the District of Columbia (North West vs. South East, DC) differ almost by 10 times (over 900%).  This chart above shows the increasing family disintegration (black men not marrying) that black children have experienced since 1970.

The NYT journalists are much more circumspect than their editors in drawing conclusions:

“African-Americans made up about 35 percent of all children raised in the bottom 1 percent of the income distribution. They made up less than 1 percent of the children at the very top. This picture captures both a source of racial inequality and a consequence of it. White children are more likely to start life with economic advantages. But we now know that even when they start with the same advantages as black children, white boys still fare better, only reinforcing the disparities seen here.”

But one aspect they left out: when you factor in marriage and family, Black children, on average, do not start life with the same advantages.

Here is what is really going on in large measure: Marital chaos has increased massively in the Black family over the last eighty years, and especially since the sexual revolution. Nobel Laureat Akerlof has published a study at Brookings Institute on this in 1996. Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned about it in 1965 The Negro Family: The Case For National Action, known as the Moynihan Report. (He was vilified for daring to do this report when he was Assistant Secretary of Labor).

The data is incontrovertible. Here is what has happened to Black children since 1940.

Worse still the weakening of human and social capital is compounded over the generations.

Who is to blame? If you want to find blame… One major culprit is the National Organization of Women who very deliberately and vociferously set out to remove men from their families. Nowhere have they succeeded as they have in the Black Family. Yet they and their allies reign supreme in one major political party (and have many friends in the other).

Though no ethnic group is in the “saints” category, Black men and women have the worst track record at getting married and staying married.

Public policy is no great help here: You don’t go to government for love, especially not the tough love that marriage requires.

The Black Church is no help here either. I have addressed Black pastors’ meetings and discussed this with them. They agree. If they speak about marriage teaching what Moses taught, what their grandfathers and great grandfathers taught, and especially what Christ taught (they are Christian pastors) — they would lose their income! Many in their congregations would seek an easier pastor who would not upset the apple cart.

Is this racism? When black adults embrace family chaos? Most people would say they don’t choose it to be so and given their upbringing and early childhood experience within their families there is a lot of truth in that. You cannot choose what you do not experience many would say. But in this discussion, this does not hold. Many people who have not experienced being rich choose to be so and put in the massive effort to pull it off. Are black children urged to make it to the top? In school, in college, at church, by politicians, by the media, by student groups?

Does the same urging and encouragement happen on marriage? Look again at the abysmal rates of marriage among rich Black parents…. It is lower that poor white parents at the bottom of in income scale!

It is not easy to work a way out of cultural weakness. Without a pathway, leadership, and support it is impossible.

It does not take long to go from order to chaos — in anything. It takes a lot longer to go from chaos to order— in everything.

Getting to good kids who turn into strong adults requires the tough, suffering of marriage. Why “the suffering of marriage” — because if marriage was nothing but the effervescence of romance everyone would stay married forever. Learning to live with another, year after year, decade after decade is tough work. It makes for tough character… the requirement for moving up the income scale, staying there and holding onto it.

I pray that Black leaders (in church, in public school education, in the media, in Hollywood, in politics, in student associations, in the academy) stand up together and help each other say what needs to be said and— even more — do the long hard work of rebuilding Black marriages one at a time, generation after generation.

I hope the New York Times team (who were very prudent in their conclusion[2]) will continue their analysis and give us another treat in Upshot, this time including the variables of always-intact-marriage to permit us to analyze the data that way. I bet it will yield much clarity.

Racism has some influence, no doubt, but it is nothing compared to the weakening of black children visited upon them by the absence of marriage, by the absence of their biological fathers.[3] Marriage was one of the great strengths that have not been passed down to them by their parents, pastors and teachers. It used to be there.

Remove the chaos in parent’s marriage and children thrive — no matter the racial group. Leave the marital conflict unattended and the children wilt. Compound it over generations and the situation only gets worse. This is not racism. This is human nature.

For the good of the child – and the black child, the future of America,

Pat Fagan

Director of MARRI

[1] The title and the red inserts in the chart are my own, they are not part of the NYT original chart.

[2] “The research makes clear that there is something unique about the obstacles black males face. The gap between Hispanics and whites is narrower, and their incomes will converge within a couple of generations if mobility stays the same. Asian-Americans earn more than whites raised at the same income level, or about the same when first-generation immigrants are excluded. Only Native Americans have an income gap comparable to African-Americans. But the disparities are widest for black boys.”

[3] Though stepfathers are great and needed even they cannot (on average) cannot have the same impact as the married biological father. Again this is not a racist finding: it holds across ethnic groups. It is a human thing.

*An earlier Faith and Family Findings has more material related to this issue.

 

Running Away and Religious Attendance

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Adolescents who worship at least weekly are the least likely to run away from home.

According to the National Longitudinal Study of Health, Waves I and II, six percent of students in Grades 7-12 who worship at least weekly have run away from home. By contrast, 12 percent of students who never worship have run away from home. In between are those who worship one to three times a month (7.3 percent) and those who worship less than once a month (10.3 percent).

Other Studies

Several studies corroborate these findings. Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin and Glen Elder of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reported that low church attendance was an effective identifier of adolescent delinquency.[2]

Wendy Manning and Kathleen Lamb of Bowling GreenStateUniversityalso found that adolescents who were more religious were less likely to exhibit delinquency.[3]

The more often adolescents run to religious services, the less likely they are to run away from home.

Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D.

Senior Fellow

Director of the Center for Family and Religion

Family Research Council

[1] This chart draws on a large national sample (16,000) from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. This work was done by the author in cooperation with former colleagues at The Heritage Foundation, Washington, D.C.

[2] Mark D. Regnerus and Glen H. Elder, “Religion and Vulnerability among Low-Risk Adolescents,” Social Science Research, vol. 32 (2003): 633-658. The delinquency measures included running away from home.

[3] Wendy D. Manning and Kathleen A. Lamb, “Adolescent Well-Being in Cohabiting, Married, and Single-Parent Families,” Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 65 (2003): 876-893. The delinquency measures included running away from home.

Running Away and Family Structure

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Adolescents who live in an intact married family are the least likely to run away from home.

According to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Waves I and II, six percent of students in Grades 7-12 who live with their married, biological parents have run away from home. By contrast, 12 percent of adolescents who live with a stepparent have run away from home. In between are those who live with two biological cohabiting parents (8.6 percent), those whose parents are divorced (10.5 percent), those who live with one biological cohabiting parent (10.9 percent), and those who live with a single, never-married parent (11.1 percent).

Other Studies

Several other sources corroborate the direction of these findings. Rebecca Sanchez of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation and colleagues found that “[f]amily structure was a strong predictor of running away. In effect, the more disrupted the family, the greater the likelihood of running away. Youth living with both biological parents were least likely to run away, followed by those with at least one nonbiological parent, those with single mothers, and those in other family structures.”[2]

Having analyzed a data sample of children from the Canadian province of Ontario, Christopher Kierkus of the State University of New York at Albany and Douglas Baer of University of Victoria reported that school children who lived with both biological parents were much less likely to run away than, in increasing probability, those living with a single parent, those living with a step-parent, and those living with neither biological parent.[3]

In a study of black male adolescents, H. Elaine Rodney and Robert Mupier of Prairie View A&M University found that “five percent of father-absent adolescents reported that they had run away from home, as opposed to only 0.9% of father-present adolescents.”[4]

When it comes to keeping adolescents at home, the intact married family is most effective.

Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow
Director of the Center for Family and Religion
Family Research Council

[1] This chart draws on a large national sample (16,000) from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. This work was done by the author in cooperation with former colleagues at The Heritage Foundation, Washington, D.C.

[2] Rebecca Polly Sanchez, et al., “Who Runs? A Demographic Profile of Runaway Youth in the United States,” Journal of Adolescent Health, vol. 39 (2006): 778-781.

[3] Christopher A. Kierkus and Douglas Baer, “A Social Control Explanation of the Relationship between Family Structure and Delinquent Behavior,” Canadian Journal of Criminology, vol. 44 (2002): 425-458.

[4] H. Elaine Rodney and Robert Mupier, “Behavioral Differences between African American Male Adolescents with Biological Fathers and Those without Biological Fathers,” Journal of Black Studies, vol. 30 (1999): 45-61.

Running Away, Religious Attendance, and Family Structure

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Adolescents from intact families who worship frequently are the least likely to run away.

This chart depicts the percentage of adolescents in Grades 7-12 who have ever run away, correlated with religious attendance and family structure. Only five percent of adolescents who live with both biological parents and worship at least monthly have ever run away. By contrast, more than 13 percent of adolescents who worship less than monthly and come from single-parent or reconstituted families have run away. In between are those in non-intact families who worship at least monthly (8.5 percent) and those who live with both biological parents and worship less than monthly (8.1 percent). The data are taken from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Waves I and II.

Other Studies

Several other studies corroborate the direction of these findings. Having analyzed delinquency data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Lela McKnight and Ann Loper of the University of Virginia reported that single-parent status was a significant risk factor for adolescent female delinquency while religious belief was a significant resiliency factor. [2]

Wendy Manning and Kathleen Lamb of Bowling Green State University also found that adolescents who lived with both biological parents and were more religious were less likely to be delinquent. [3]

As the evidence indicates, religious attendance and the intact married family are a powerful tandem of effective guardians against runaway adolescents.

Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow
Director of the Center for Family and Religion
Family Research Council

[1] This chart draws on a large national sample (16,000) from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. This work was done by the author in cooperation with former colleagues at The Heritage Foundation, Washington, D.C.

[2] Lela Renee’ McKnight and Ann Booker Loper, “The Effect of Risk and Resilience Factors on the Prediction of Delinquency in Adolescent Girls,” School Psychology International, vol. 23 (2002): 186-198. The delinquency measures included running away from home.

[3] Wendy D. Manning and Kathleen A. Lamb, “Adolescent Well-Being in Cohabiting, Married, and Single-Parent Families,” Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 65 (2003): 876-893. The delinquency measures included running away from home.

Parenting Stress and Children’s Religious Attendance

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This chart is taken from a study conducted by Nicholas Zill, Ph.D.[1] for Family Research Council.[2]

Parents whose children attend worship at least weekly report less parenting stress than those parents whose children attend worship less frequently.

According to the National Survey of Children’s Health, parents whose children attend religious services at least weekly score lower on the parenting stress scale (49.8) than those who worship less than once a month (50.8). In between are those who worship one to three times a month (50.5) and those who never attend religious services (50).

Other Studies

Though little work has been done on the connection between children’s religious attendance and parenting stress, several other studies support a positive correlation between religious attendance and stress relief. David Schlundt of Vanderbilt University and colleagues reported a significant correlation between religious attendance and better mental health.[3]

In an analysis of the Canadian Community Health Survey, Marilyn Baetz of the University of Saskatchewan and colleagues found that frequent religious attendance is associated with lower lifetime depression and fewer psychiatric disorders.[4]

Alexander Moreira-Almeida of the University of São Paulo in Brazil and colleagues also reported that religiousness “usually has a positive association with good mental health.”[5]

Marc Musick of the University of Texas at Austin and colleagues found a significant “protective effect of service attendance on mortality.”[6]

As the data indicate, parents of families that frequently attend religious services are least likely to be stressed.

Nicholas Zill, Ph.D.
Research Psychologist
Former Vice President of Westat
Founding President of Child Trends

[1] Nicholas Zill is a research psychologist and consultant. Until his recent retirement, he was a vice president of Westat Inc. He was the founder of Child Trends and its executive director for 13 years.

[2] This chart draws on data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics in the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) in 2003. The data sample consisted of parents of 102,353 children and teens in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 68,996 of these children and teens were between six and 17 years old, the age group that was the focus of the study. The survey sample in this age range represented a population of nearly 49 million young people nationwide.

[3] David Schlundt, et al., “Religious Affiliation, Health Behaviors and Outcomes: Nashville REACH 2010,” America Journal of Health Behavior, vol. 32 (2008): 714-724.

[4] Marilyn Baetz, et al., “How Spiritual Values and Worship Attendance Relate to Psychiatric Disorders in the Canadian Population,” Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 51 (2006): 654-661.

[5] Alexander Moreira-Almeida, et al., “Religiousness and Mental Health: A Review,” Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria, vol. 28 (2006): 242-250.

[6] Marc A. Musick, et al., “Attendance at Religious Services and Mortality in a National Sample,” Journal of Health and Social Behavior, vol. 45 (2004): 198-213.

Parenting Stress and Family Structure

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This chart is taken from a study conducted by Nicholas Zill, Ph.D.[1] for Family Research Council.[2]

Biological parents and adoptive parents who live together report less parenting stress than those who do not live together.

According to the National Survey of Children’s Health, biological parents and adoptive parents who live together report less parenting stress (48.9) than single mothers (52.1). In between are parents who live within another family structure (50.6)[3] and biological parent/stepparent families (52.0).[4]

Other Studies

Several other studies corroborate the direction of these findings. Paul Amato of the Pennsylvania State University reported that “adults and children from divorced families, as a group, score lower than their counterparts in married-couple families on a variety of indicators of well-being,” including happiness, self-conceptions, and psychological distress.[5]

John Cairney of the University of Toronto and colleagues also found that single mothers reported “higher levels of chronic stress” than married mothers did.[6]

Rukmalie Jayakody and Dawn Stauffer of the Pennsylvania State University found that, compared to married mothers, single mothers exhibit a significantly higher rate of psychiatric disorders, the most common being depression.[7]

As the evidence shows, biological parents who live together are less stressed and much healthier than their single and divorced counterparts.

Nicholas Zill, Ph.D.

Research Psychologist

Former Vice President of Westat

Founding President of Child Trends

[1] Nicholas Zill is a research psychologist and consultant. Until his recent retirement, he was a vice president of Westat Inc. He was the founder of Child Trends and its executive director for 13 years.

[2] This chart draws on data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics in the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) in 2003. The data sample consisted of parents of 102,353 children and teens in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 68,996 of these children and teens were between six and 17 years old, the age group that was the focus of the study. The survey sample in this age range represented a population of nearly 49 million young people nationwide.

[3] Categories covered under “other” include children with father only, foster parent, and children living with grandparent or other relatives.

[4] Most of the parents in the “biological parent and a stepparent” category are married.

[5] Paul R. Amato, “The Consequence of Divorce for Adults and Children,” Journal of Marriage and the Family, vol. 62 (2000): 1269-1287.

[6] John Cairney, et al., “Stress, Social Support, and Depression in Single and Married Mothers,” Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, vol. 38 (2003): 442-449.

[7] Rukmalie Jayakody and Dawn Stauffer, “Mental Health Problems among Single Mothers: Implications for Work and Welfare Reform,” Journal of Social Issues, vol. 56 (2000): 617-634.

Parents Contacted by School about Their Children’s Behavior Problems and Religious Attendance

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This chart is taken from a study conducted by Nicholas Zill, Ph.D.[1] for Family Research Council.[2]

Parents whose children attend worship at least weekly are less likely to be contacted by their children’s school about behavior problems than parents whose children worship less frequently.

According to the National Survey of Children’s Health, only 24.6 percent of children who worship at least weekly are the object of their school reporting behavior problems to parents, whereas 41.7 percent of children who never worship are the object of their school reporting behavior problems to parents. In between are children who worship one to three times a month (31.4 percent) and children who attend religious services less than once a month (31.9 percent).

Other Studies

Several other studies corroborate the direction of these findings. Christian Smith and Robert Faris of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reported that 77 percent of 12th grade students who attended religious services weekly or more had never been sent to the principal’s office or been detained after school for misbehavior in the year prior to being asked, compared to 67 percent of 12th grade students who never attended religious services.[3]

Smith and Faris also found that high school seniors who attended religious services weekly or more were less likely to have hit a teacher or been involved in a fight in the year prior to being asked.[4]

Examining religion and delinquency data in the National Education Longitudinal Study,[5] Jerry Trusty of Texas A&M University and Richard Watts of Baylor University found that 12th grade students who frequently attended religious activities were less likely to exhibit delinquent behavior than those who did not attend religious activities frequently.[6]

As the evidence indicates, children who frequently attend religious services or activities are less likely to exhibit behavior problems at school that cause teachers or administrators to contact their parents.

Nicholas Zill, Ph.D.
Research Psychologist
Former Vice President of Westat
Founding President of Child Trends

[1] Nicholas Zill is a research psychologist and consultant. Until his recent retirement, he was a vice president of Westat Inc. He was the founder of Child Trends and its executive director for 13 years.

[2] This chart draws on data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics in the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) in 2003. The data sample consisted of parents of 102,353 children and teens in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 68,996 of these children and teens were between six and 17 years old, the age group that was the focus of the study. The survey sample in this age range represented a population of nearly 49 million young people nationwide.

[3] Christian Smith and Robert Faris, Religion and American Adolescent Delinquency, Risk Behaviors and Constructive Social Activities (Chapel Hill, N.C.: National Study of Youth and Religion, 2002): 38-39.

[4] Ibid., 30-31.

[5] The delinquency data included school suspensions, arrests, and time spent in juvenile centers.

[6] Jerry Trusty and Richard E. Watts, “Relationship of High School Seniors’ Religious Perceptions and Behavior to Educational, Career, and Leisure Variables,” Counseling and Values, vol. 44 (1999): 30-40.

Parents Contacted by School about Their Children’s Behavior Problems, Religious Attendance, and Family Structure

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This chart is taken from a study conducted by Nicholas Zill, Ph.D.[1] for Family Research Council.[2]

Parents of children who attend worship frequently and live in intact families are the least likely to be contacted by their children’s school about behavior problems.

This chart depicts the percentage of children aged 6 to 17 whose parents have been contacted by their children’s school concerning behavior problems, correlated with religious attendance and family structure. Only 21 percent of children who worship frequently and live with both biological parents or with two adoptive parents are the object of their school reporting behavior problems to parents, compared to a much larger 53 percent of children who worship less than monthly and live in single-parent or reconstituted families. In between are those who live in intact families and worship less than monthly (25 percent) and those who live in non-intact families who worship at least monthly (33 percent). The data are taken from the National Survey of Children’s Health.

Other Studies

Several other studies corroborate the direction of these findings. Byron Johnson of Baylor University and colleagues examined delinquency data from the National Youth Survey, which included measures such as “hit students,” “hit teacher,” “damaged school property,” and “skipped classes.” They reported that adolescent religiosity corresponded to fewer instances of delinquency and that adolescents who lived in intact families were less likely to acquire delinquent friends.[3]

John Bartkowski of Mississippi State University and colleagues also found that both parents’ frequent religious attendance correlated with several positive child behavior outcomes, such as greater self-control and a reduced probability of “externalizing problem behaviors at school.”[4]

When it comes to having well-behaved children at school, the intact family that worships frequently proves to be the leader.

Nicholas Zill, Ph.D.
Research Psychologist
Former Vice President of Westat
Founding President of Child Trends

[1] Nicholas Zill is a research psychologist and consultant. Until his recent retirement, he was a vice president of Westat Inc. He was the founder of Child Trends and its executive director for 13 years.

[2] This chart draws on data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics in the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) in 2003. The data sample consisted of parents of 102,353 children and teens in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 68,996 of these children and teens were between six and 17 years old, the age group that was the focus of the study. The survey sample in this age range represented a population of nearly 49 million young people nationwide.

[3] Byron R. Johnson, et al., “Does Adolescent Religious Commitment Matter? A Reexamination of the Effects of Religiosity on Delinquency,” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, vol. 38 (2001): 22-44.

[4] John P. Bartkowski, et al., “Religion and Child Development: Evidence from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study,” Social Science Research, vol. 37 (2008): 18-36.

Divorce or Separation: Religious Attendance in Adolescence

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Visiting Fellow Althea Nagai provided the data for this chart.

Adults who frequently attended religious services as adolescents are less likely ever to be divorced or separated than those who did not.

According to the General Social Surveys (GSS), 17.4 percent of adults who worshiped at least monthly as adolescents have been divorced or separated, compared to 21.4 percent of adults who worshiped less frequently.[1]

Other Studies

Several other studies analyzing the association of contemporaneous religious attendance with marital stability corroborate the direction of these findings. Vaughn Call and Tim Heaton of Brigham Young University reported that compared to other religious elements such as affiliation or strength of beliefs, “attendance has the greatest impact on marital stability.” Couples who attend church together weekly have a lower risk of divorce than those who worship less frequently.[2]

John Wilson and Marc Musick of Duke University also found that “the higher the level of involvement in the social life of the church, the more [a couple’s] marriage is valued.”[3]

And Timothy Clydesdale of the College of New Jersey reported that “nonparticipation in a religious worship community was associated significantly with…an increased likelihood of having been divorced.”[4]

As the evidence indicates, frequent religious attendance, in adolescence and adulthood, reduces the odds of divorce or separation.

Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D. & Althea Nagai, Ph.D.

Dr. Fagan is senior fellow and director of the Center for Family and Religion at Family Research Council. Dr. Nagai is a visiting fellow at Family Research Council.

[1] This chart draws on data collected by the General Social Surveys, 1972-2006. From 1972 to 1993, the sample size averaged 1,500 each year. No GSS was conducted in 1979, 1981, or 1992. Since 1994, the GSS has been conducted only in even-numbered years and uses two samples per GSS that total approximately 3,000. In 2006, a third sample was added for a total sample size of 4,510.

[2] Vaughn R. A. Call and Tim B. Heaton, “Religious Influence on Marital Stability,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, vol. 36 (1997): 382-392.

[3] John Wilson and Marc Musick, “Religion and Marital Dependency,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, vol. 35 (1996): 30-40.

[4] Timothy T. Clydesdale, “Family Behaviors among Early U.S. Baby Boomers: Exploring the Effects of Religion and Income Change, 1965-1982,” Social Forces, vol. 76 (1997): 605-635.

Divorce or Separation: Family Structure in Adolescence

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Visiting Fellow Althea Nagai provided the data for this chart.

Adults who grew up living with both biological parents are less likely ever to be divorced or separated than those who did not.

According to the General Social Surveys (GSS), 18 percent of adults who lived in an intact family have ever been divorced or separated, compared to 28 percent of those who lived in a non-intact family.[1]

Other Studies

Several other studies corroborate the direction of these findings. Paul Amato of the University of Nebraska found that “adult children of divorced parents have an elevated risk of seeing their own marriages end in divorce.”[2]

Pamela Webster of Brown University and colleagues reported that “children of divorce, more than those from any other single-parent family type, express the most doubts about their marital stability (in addition to the greater perceived chances of divorce, they more often report marital trouble even when very happily married). Moreover, among those in less than very happy marriages, children of divorce are more likely than those with any other single-parent history to escalate conflict and reduce communication with their spouse, and those marital interactions are associated with an increased self-reported risk of divorce.”[3]

As the data show, brokenness often begets brokenness in American families.

Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D. & Althea Nagai, Ph.D.

Dr. Fagan is senior fellow and director of the Center for Family and Religion at Family Research Council. Dr. Nagai is a visiting fellow at Family Research Council.

[1] This chart draws on data collected by the General Social Surveys, 1972-2006. From 1972 to 1993, the sample size averaged 1,500 each year. No GSS was conducted in 1979, 1981, or 1992. Since 1994, the GSS has been conducted only in even-numbered years and uses two samples per GSS that total approximately 3,000. In 2006, a third sample was added for a total sample size of 4,510.

[2] Paul R. Amato, “Explaining the Intergenerational Transmission of Divorce,” Journal of Marriage and the Family, vol. 58 (1996): 628-640.

[3] Pamela S. Webster, et al., “Effects of Childhood Family Background on Adult Marital Quality and Perceived Stability,” American Journal of Sociology, vol. 101 (1995): 404-432.