The article presents an overview of the scholarly evidence written by an expert in family law. She identifies two cohorts of children: those raised by their married biological parents (MBP), and those who are not. She notes that their are superior outcomes for those raised by MBP and identifies the breakdown of the institution of marriage as being particularly important in causing this divide.
Professor Wardle examines the disintegration of families and notes 5 major trends:
1. A dramatic increase in cohabitation without marriage, rising from 1% in 1960 to >11% in 2011
2. The social value of and status of marriage has plummeted with marriage rates falling 60% from 1950 to 2009
3. The number of children born out of wedlock has increased 20X from 1940 to 2007. As a percentage, there has been a 10X increase.
4. Divorce levels appear to have peaked but remain at very high levels.
5. Due to these trends there has been a dramatic increase in number of kids raised by single parents, mostly women. At time of writing, 27% of kids under 18 were living with only one parent.
These trends have great costs:
1. For the state; one estimate in 2008 stated that the public costs of divorce and child-rearing out of wedlock in US were $112 billion per year.
2. For individual. The ‘Longevity Project’ identifies factors associated with shorter or longer lifespan and it states that ‘parental divorce during childhood emerged as the single strongest predictor of early death in adulthood’. It is also noted that parental divorce increases the risk of poorer educational outcomes, teenage pregnancy, criminal behaviour and incarceration
‘Throughout history, a common goal of beneficent civilisations has been to build for the future- for parents and the adult generation of a society to give their children better opportunities and a better world than they (the adults) received. That goal is in jeopardy today because the disintegration of the family, especially of marriage and the resulting separation of some children from one or more of their biological parents has created two classes of children: those privileged to grow up in families where they enjoy association and parenting from their mother and father, and those that are deprived of association and parental relationship with one or both of those parents. The latter are unlikely to enjoy the quality of life and standard of living that their peers raised by both of their parents enjoy.’
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