Marriage is especially important for children. Fifty years of social science has shown that kids do better on a wide range of outcomes when they grow up in homes with their married biological parents.
Unfortunately for children being born in America today, marriage is becoming rarer. According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2015 Index of Culture and Opportunity, the marriage rate dropped continually between 2002 and 2012 to reach its lowest point in history. During almost the same ten years, the percentage of children born outside marriage grew by 6 percentage points. In 2014, over 40 percent of children were born to unmarried mothers.
This is a problem.
Children raised by their married mother and father have, on average, better social outcomes, including higher academic achievement, better emotional health, and fewer behavioral problems, and are more likely to form healthy romantic relationships themselves as adults.
Families with married parents are also, on average, better off economically.
Intact homes with married parents are more likely to be safe places for children—domestic abuse is far less likely when children live with their biological parents. Children raised in intact families are less likely to display delinquent or antisocial behavior. Having married parents provides a huge boost to kids in nearly every aspect of life.
The best way to ensure health and success for our children is to promote healthy marriages and build a stronger marriage culture. National Marriage Week (this week!) reminds us both of the work to be done and why it is worth it.
The government recognizes marriage as an institution because it brings together a mother and father to ensure that the child grows up in a stable household. Today’s best social science shows that having both a mother and a father is best for kids.
Both mothers and fathers have distinctive talents, and both contribute uniquely to their children’s development.
As The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson argues, “there is no such thing as ‘parenting.’ There is mothering, and there is fathering, and children do best with both.” This underscores why individuals and groups should remain free to speak and act on the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman without government coercion.