Sociologist shocked at data which shows marriage is best for children

Feb 8, 2019


Children “born to unmarried parents are disadvantaged relative to children born to married parents”.

Not our words but those of a leading sociologist’s research highlighted by the BBC this week.

Professor Sara McLanahan, who pioneered the US Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, explained: “I had been taught as a sociologist that there were no negative consequences of divorce or single parenthood”.

But after looking closely at ‘all the data she could find’, she discovered “over and over again” that there were negative consequences.

This was “not at all what my original intention was”, she added.

Her comments came in BBC Radio 4’s Analysis programme, which considered both Prof McLanahan’s work and the figures of the British Millennium Cohort Study.

Prof McLanahan’s research, first published in 2010, states: “Children born to unmarried parents do not fare as well as children born to married parents.”

“Family instability also reduces children’s cognitive test scores and increases aggressive behavior. The increase in aggression is especially pronounced among boys.”

“In conclusion, children born to unmarried parents are disadvantaged relative to children born to married parents in terms of parental capabilities and family stability. Additionally, parents’ marital status at the time of a child’s birth is a good predictor of longer-term family stability and complexity, both of which influence children’s longer-term wellbeing.”

The radio programme, available now online, also considered the Millennium Cohort Study data which was recently analysed by University College London.

UCL confirmed that the kids of divorced parents suffer more emotional problems than other children. Those aged 7-14 seem to suffer more than under-7s. Boys are particularly badly affected, with greater prevalence of disobedience and other bad behaviour.

This is one of the reasons why we fight for marriage: children do best with parents who are married. And they deserve adults who stand up for them.

Politicians try to weaken the institution, media pundits denigrate it, but we must be its advocate.

The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study follows 5,000 children born in large US cities between 1998 and 2000. It deliberately includes a disproportionately large number born to unmarried parents.