Around 4 million poor children grow up in high-poverty neighborhoods, 9 out of 10 of whom are children of color, and disadvantage certainly affects these children. However, evidence suggests that a disadvantaged upbringing—and in particular the increased likelihood of having an absent father figure— can disproportionately harm boys’ later outcomes. Adolescent boys, regardless of household income, are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior if there has been no father figure in their lives (including both residential and non-residential biological fathers and stepfathers), while adolescent girls’ behavior is largely independent of the presence of a father figure.
Similarly, boys from single-mother-headed households are 25 percentage points more likely to be suspended in the eighth grade than girls from these households, whereas the gap in two-parent households is only 10 percentage points. Boys in these families are also less likely to attend college. The large-scale randomized experiment Moving to Opportunity 8 showed that for young boys, moving from high-poverty public housing to lower poverty communities did not improve behavioral or health outcomes as much as it did for girls. Researchers have argued that this gender difference in outcomes may be partly due to increased distance from father figures and other differences in social experiences that may contribute to gender differences in the impacts of these moves. WhiteHouse.gov
The American family has altered.
The Pew Research Center study found, “Less than half (46%) of U.S. children younger than 18 years of age are living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage. This is a marked change from 1960, when 73% of children fit this description, and 1980, when 61% did, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of recently-released American Community Survey (ACS) and Decennial Census data.”
- 4 percent are living with two cohabiting parents.
- 5 percent of children are not living with either parent. In most of these cases, they are living with a grandparent.
- 6 percent of all children are living with a stepparent.
- 15 percent of children are living with two parents who are in a remarriage.
- 34 percent of children today are living with an unmarried parent — up from just 9 percent in 1960.
Children born outside of marriage now stands at 41%, up from just 5% in 1960.
Study after study has confirmed that children from nuclear families fare better in education, emotional development, and spiritual areas. Family structure and parent involvement, especially fathers, has a massive impact on children.
The damage done and being done to the nuclear family is immense. A nation can survive wars, disasters, a host of cataclysms, but the decline of the traditional family is a disaster that has a massive impact on a nation.
A detrimental effect of the destruction of the family unit is poverty. In the United States in 2009, the poverty rate for children in married families was 11%. By contrast, the poverty rate for children in female-headed families was 44%. The changes in family composition between these two poverty rates is striking.
The number of single-parent families has increased. Higher and higher numbers of children live in single-parent families in which they are four times as likely to live in poverty and all that goes with it. Dr. Sara McLanahan, in Psychology Today, research has lead to disturbing conclusions for children in single-parent families. “Children from single-parent families school drop-out rate is twice as high as rate for children in two-parent families. Children in one-parent families have lower grade point averages and poorer school attendance records. As adults, they are less likely to graduate from college and more likely to become single parents themselves.”
Escape from poverty?
Thomas Sowell, an econmist at Stanford University, addresses the issue of escaping poverty in his article Poor Too Often Led The Wrong Way To Escape Poverty
Family structure and parent involvement, especially fathers, has a massive impact on children and their education success. A college diploma is an important component in achieving economic success in today’s economy. An article by W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia looks at what is a key to college success.
I find that young adults who as teens had involved fathers are significantly more likely to graduate from college, and that young adults from more privileged backgrounds are especially likely to have had an involved father in their lives as teens.
Bradford Wilcox looked at the kinds of family structures most likely to facilitate father involvement; adolescents are much more likely to report that they have a father who is involved or highly involved if their biological parents are married. An involved father from all education levels is more common for adolescents living in an intact, married family.