Summary: Having Married Parents
Essential to Children
Study shows that growing up with two continuously married parents
are less likely to experience a wide range of cognitive, emotional,
and social problems, not only during childhood but also in
In an article written in The Future of Children
journal, the author examines the effects of family formation on
children and evaluates whether current marriage-promotion programs
are likely to meet children’s needs. The author, Paul Amato, begins
by investigating how children in households with both biological
parents differ from children in households with only one biological
parent. He shows that growing up with two continuously married
parents are less likely to experience a wide range of cognitive,
emotional, and social problems, not only during childhood but also
in adulthood. Although it is not possible to demonstrate that family
structure causes these differences, studies using a variety of
sophisticated statistical methods suggest that this is the case.
Amato then looks at what accounts for the differences between these
two groups of children. He shows that compared with other children,
those who grow up in a stable, two-parent families have a higher
standard of living, receive more effective parenting, experience
more cooperative co-parenting, are emotionally closer to both
parents, and are subjected to fewer stressful events and
circumstances. Finally, Amato assesses how current
marriage-promotion policies will affect the well-being of children.
He finds that interventions that increase the share of children who
grow up with both parents would improve the overall well-being of
U.S. children only modestly, because children’s social or emotional
problems have many causes, of which family structure is only one.
But interventions that lower only modestly the overall share of U.S.
children experiencing various problems could lower substantially the
number of children experiencing them.1
1The Impact of Family
Formation Change on the Cognitive, Social, and Emotional Well-Being
of the Next Generation, The Future of Children, Vol. 15,
No. 2, Fall 2005, pp. 75-96.
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