Each year, over a million American children suffer the divorce of their parents. Divorce causes irreparable harm to all involved, but most especially to the children. Though it might be shown to benefit some individuals in some individual cases, over all it causes a temporary decrease in an individual’s quality of life and puts some “on a downward trajectory from which they might never fully recover.”
The paper discusses divorce’s effects across six categories:
·Family: The parent-child relationship is weakened, and children’s perception of their ability (as well as their actual ability) to develop and commit to strong, healthy romantic relationships is damaged.
·Religious practice: Divorce diminishes the frequency of worship of God and recourse to Him in prayer.
·Education: Children’s learning capacity and educational attainment are both diminished.
·The marketplace: Household income falls and children’s individual earning capacity is cut deeply.
·Government: Divorce significantly increases crime, abuse and neglect, drug use, and the costs of compensating government services.
·Health and well-being: Divorce weakens children’s health and longevity. It also increases behavioral, emotional, and psychiatric risks, including even suicide.
Family Research Council recently hosted criminologist Byron Johnson, the author of More God, Less Crime, to discuss his research on religion’s effects on criminal behavior. In his presentation, he told the audience that “as religiosity goes up, the tendency to commit crime or delinquent acts goes down.” (To watch Johnson’s presentation, click here.)
According to Johnson’s website, “Religion can be a powerful antidote to crime. The book describes how faith communities, congregations, and faith-based organizations are essential in forming partnerships necessary to provide the human and spiritual capital to effectively address crime, offender rehabilitation, and the substantial aftercare problems facing former prisoners.” His research agrees with our own: our Mapping America publications show that those who worship weekly are less likely to steal, to shoplift repeatedly, or to fight, and those who worship monthly or more are less likely to be picked up or charged by police.
Science Daily reported that a 19-year study published recently in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that becoming a father lessens a man’s likelihood to consume alcohol or tobacco or to commit crimes, apart from the process of maturing with age.
The authors found that men who became fathers well into their 20s or 30s were more likely to kick their habits than men who became fathers in their teens or early 20s.
One of the authors, assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University David Kerr, said they drew encouraging information from their research: “This research suggests that fatherhood can be a transformative experience, even for men engaging in high risk behavior…This presents a unique window of opportunity for intervention, because new fathers might be especially willing and ready to hear a more positive message and make behavioral changes.”
In Bay Minette, Alabama, non-violent offenders are now given a choice: to work off their fines in jail and pay a fine, or go to church every Sunday for a year. So what will it be in this either/or situation of prison and church?
How about just church and no prison? The Alabama law recognizes the powerful influence of religion and church attendance, and rightly so. Studies show that only 5% of children who currently sit in the pews at least once a weekare at some point arrested, compared with 11% of those who never attend church. Even a little religious attendance helps behavior: only 7% of children who attend church at least once a month are arrested.
Not only does religion work to minimize the risk of arrest: Byron Johnson of Baylor University and colleaguesexamined data from the National Youth Survey, and they found that the greater the religious involvement of black youth, the lower is the occurrence of “serious crime,” including felony assault, robbery, felony theft, prostitution, and selling drugs.
We will see how effective the Alabama law is at reforming or dissuading criminals in the future. But the numbers tell the story: religious attendance is beneficial for society.
A recent Wall Street Journal article highlights the plight that many—if not most–young black women face: the literal dearth of potential marriage partners. Ralph Richard Banks, himself a black man and law professor at Stanford University, spent time traveling the country, interviewing black women to hear their story and why black women have fewer marriage options. He ultimately concluded that there is a lack of competent and suitable black men to go with the numbers of educated and successful black women.
The two main problems with black men, Banks concludes, are incarceration and lack of education. Of the more than two million incarcerated men in the U.S., 40% of them are African-American, with more than 10% of this number made up of black men in their 20s and 30s.
Educationally (and, in turn, economically), black men also fall behind black women. According to Banks, by the time graduation rolls around, black women outnumber men 2 to 1. And for graduate school in 2008, there were 125,000 African-American women enrolled—compared to 58,000 men.
That there are too few black men who are the social equals of black women answers the “why” of the marriage situation. But there is a further, deeper reason behind why there are too few marriageable black men. This answer goes into the families of the black men themselves.
According to the General Social Survey, youths from always-married families are only 10% likely to be picked up or charged by the police, compared with 17% of youths from non-married families. Children from always-married families are only 13% likely to steal something, compared with 22% that only live with one parent, and 18.8% who live with never-married parents. Similarly, according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, children who live with two married parents are 7.7% likely to shoplift, compared to 12% of children who live with only one parent.
Children from always-married families do better in school, as well, with a combined math and English GPA of 2.9, compared to 2.5 GPA of children from never-married families.
If children from married, two-parent families are less likely to commit crime, and more likely to have better educational outcomes, it is no wonder that the black family is falling behind. Only 17.4% of black children grew up in married, two-parent homes (compared with the national average of 45.4%; for comparison, 62% of Asians grow up in married, two-parent families). Statistically, these 17% of black children are the ones who will have the best life outcomes, but it is no wonder that there are so many black women looking for husbands. While the article suggests interracial marriage as a temporary solution for black women, if things are going to turn around for the long haul, the simple recipe is parents who keep their promises to one another.