The research is clear: adolescents tend to fare better — academically and behaviourally — when they live with both biological parents. And that’s a couple of scientists talking. But there is an exception: when their parents frequently argue, young adults are much more likely to binge on alcohol; they also tend to smoke, and their poor school grades are similar to those of peers who don’t have their own mum and dad at home.
The findings, which, at first blush, are disappointing to marriage advocates, come from a study of teenagers in 1,963 households in the US National Survey of Families and Households who were followed up through to their early 30s. Cornell professor Kelly Musick compared those who lived with married parents who often fought, with those living in stepfather or single-mother households.
“Our results clearly illustrate that the advantages of living with two continuously married parents are not shared equally by all children,” said Musick. “Compared with children in low-conflict families, children from high-conflict families are more likely to drop out of school, have poor grades, smoke, binge drink, use marijuana, have early sex, be young and unmarried when they have a child and then experience the breakup of that relationship.” Income and parenting styles did not account for these differences, she added and the timing and sequence of such young adult transitions, are important indicators for success in later life.
Even so, there were advantages in living with married parents. The young people from high-conflict households, compared with stepfather and single-mother families, were significantly less likely to drop out of high school, have early sex and cohabit, and were more likely to attend college. Their big downfall was a marked tendency to binge drink (imitating their parents? or escaping from the bickering at home too often and mixing with the wrong company?) which they did significantly more than kids from single mother homes.
Prof Musick stresses that policy initiatives promoting marriage “need to take account of how variation within marriage relates to child well-being.” Notice that she does NOT say that, because marriage doesn’t invariably bring the best outcomes for kids, it should not be promoted. Remember the opening line: The research is clear…
It is also clear there is a lot of work to be done to support and build up marriages. ~ Newswise, June 2