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Child Wellbeing

children, economic well-being, education, family, Health No comments

The Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) recently released its 2015 edition of Kids Count. This important annual study examines how the well-being of children changed between 2008 and 2013 in four areas: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. To get a fuller picture of child well-being, MARRI believes one must include family structure.

  • Kids Count 2015 shows numerous improvements in child well-being over the last five years, especially in education (reading and math proficiency) and health (declines in teen drug abuse and teen deaths). While these improvements are welcome news, the report also reported several declines.The portion of children in poverty and of children whose parents lack secure employment increased by 4% between 2008 and 2013. 
  • The proportion of children living in single-parent homes increased from 32% in 2008 to 35% in 2013.
  • In 2013, 34% of children in single-parent families were living in poverty verses 11% of children from married families.

For children, the first aspect of well-being is their family and whether it is intact or not.  Nothing shapes a child’s destiny as does her family. MARRI research has shown that children raised in single-parent families, as opposed to intact married families, are less likely to receive a high school degree. Likewise, children who experience parental divorce or separation are more likely to have health problems than those in intact married families. Those who grow up in non-intact married families are much more likely to be divorced or separated as adults than those who grew up in intact married families. And children from married, two parent families experience greater economic well-being than children raised in any other family structure, as the AECF report previously cited demonstrates.

Kids Count concludes, “With the right investments, we can provide all families and children with the opportunity to reach their full potential and, in the process, strengthen both our economy and our nation.” MARRI suggests that the most needed investment, for every child, is an always-intact married family.

Ebola and Prayer

Ebola, Health, religion No comments

Although the Ebola epidemic has wrought an international scare, it has also shined forth a new ray of confidence in the power of prayer and trust in God.  Both American nurses who survived their battles with Ebola, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, praised God for their health. Not long after her release, Pham said, “I first and foremost would like to thank God, my family and friends. Throughout this ordeal I have put my trust in God and my medical team. I believe in the power of prayer because I know so many people all over the world have been praying for me.” Vinson also thanked Our Lord, and added, “I sincerely believe that with God all things are possible.”
Pham’s and Vinson’s faith are beautiful testimonies to the immutable fact that social science has long confirmed: religious practice contributes to a wide range of physical health benefits. Studies show that men and women who attend church weekly have the lowest mortality rates. Religious practice delivers longevity benefits, most significantly by encouraging a support network among family and friends that helps to maintain a pattern of regimented care, reducing one’s mortality risk from infectious diseases and diabetes. This greater longevity is consistently and significantly correlated with higher levels of religious practice and involvement, regardless of the sex, race, education, or health history of those studied. Furthermore, a literature review of medical, public health, and social science literature that empirically addressed the link between religion and mortality found that religious practice decreases mortality rates. Those who are religiously involved live an average of seven years longer than those who are not. Astonishingly, this gap is as great as that between non-smokers and those who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day.
The benefits of religious practice to African Americans and youth are particularly pronounced. For example, the average life span of religious blacks is 14 years longer than that of their nonreligious peers. Adolescents whose mothers attend religious services at least weekly display better health, greater problem-solving skills, and higher overall satisfaction with their lives, regardless of race, gender, income, or family structure. Youths who both attend religious services weekly and rate religion as important in their lives are more likely to eat healthfully, sleep sufficiently, and exercise regularly. Correspondingly, young people who both attend religious services weekly and rate religion as important in their lives are less likely to engage in risky behavior, such as drunk driving, riding with drunk drivers, driving without a seatbelt, or engaging in interpersonal violence. They are also less likely to smoke (tobacco or marijuana) or drink heavily
Religious practice also contributes to mental health benefits. An increase in religious practice is associated with having greater hope and a greater sense of purpose in life. Religious affiliation and regular church attendance are among the most common reasons people give to explain their own happiness. According to a review of 100 studies, people who are frequently involved in religious activities and highly value their religious faith are at reduced risk of depression. Furthermore, religious practice correlates with reduced incidence of suicide, as demonstrated by 87 percent of the studies reviewed in a 2002 meta-analysis. By contrast, a lack of religious affiliation correlates with an increased risk of suicide.

MARRI research, like “95 Social Science Reasons for Religious Worship and Practice,” highlights the wide range of benefits that religious practice brings to the individual, family, and community. Pham and Vinson are living testimonies to the power of faith.