Two are Better than One

We've been hearing for years that children raised in single-parent homes are at higher risk of poverty, drug abuse, and getting involved in crime. But for babies, a parent's marital status can literally make the difference between life and death. In their book, The Case for Marriage, Maggie Gallagher and Linda Waite examine hundreds of studies that cast light on how family formation affects children's health. Their conclusion? Divorce, they say, "appears to be literally making some children sick." For example, one study tracked the health of children before and after their parents' separation. It found that divorce made it 50 percent more likely a child would have health problems. But for babies, the risks are even greater. One study found that white babies born to unmarried mothers are 70 percent more likely to die in the first year of life; black infants born out-of-wedlock, Gallagher and Waite note, are 40 percent more likely to die before their first birthday. College-educated white mothers are the demographic group whose babies have the lowest infant-mortality rate. But even among them, they say, "being unmarried increases the risks a baby will die by 50 percent." When babies survive infancy, their parents' marital decisions follow them into childhood and even adulthood. For example, a Swedish survey found that adults raised in single-parent homes were one-third more likely to die over the sixteen-year study period than were adults from intact families. What is it about marriage that so dramatically affects children's health? Well, part of it is likely the greater income married parents enjoy, which means they can better afford private health insurance. But Gallagher and Waite also found that "the lack of emotional support from a partner may also make it harder for a single mother to manage a child's health problems effectively." This conclusion, of course, echoes what we read in Ecclesiastes: "Two are better than one . . . for if they fall, one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up." Now my daughter Emily is a single mom, and she does an heroic job. I applaud single moms. But clearly, they have a tougher time. The empirical evidence makes it clear that in most cases, married parents -- a mom and a dad -- are better for the kids. The health benefits to children of traditional marriage is just one more reason of many that we must support the Federal Marriage Amendment, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The amendment would go a long way in thwarting activist judges who would "liberate" America, so-called, from traditional norms of sexual morality and marriage. If such an amendment were to pass, decisions about such things as "domestic partnerships" would be hammered out by state legislatures, not decreed by judicial fiat. If you read The Case for Marriage, you'll discover more insights on the long-term benefits of getting and staying married -- benefits enjoyed, not just by parents, but by children who grow up in homes where one parent is always there to "lift up the other." For further reading and information: Maggie Gallagher and Linda Waite, The Case for Marriage (Doubleday, 2000). Call 1-877-322-5527 to receive the "Speak the Truth in Love" resource kit ($25), which includes information to help you understand the debate and how to advocate for the protection of marriage. Also available is a complimentary Marriage Amendment Information Packet that explains the effect of the Federal Marriage Amendment. BreakPoint Commentary No. 031014, "To 'Promote the General Welfare'." Patrick F. Fagan and Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D., "Marriage: The Safest Place for Women and Children," Backgrounder #1535, Heritage Foundation, 10 April 2002. Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D., "Marriage and Its Alternatives: Opportunity versus Risk," Beverly LaHaye Institute, 25 September 2003. (Free Adobe Reader required.) Patrick Fagan, "Lords of the Ring," Heritage Foundation, 8 October 2003. Marcia Segelstein, "Intentional Marriage," BreakPoint Online, 16 June 2003. Leslie Carbone, "The Divorce Caste," BreakPoint Online, 27 September 2002. Michael McManus, Marriage Savers (Word, 1995). William Doherty, Take Back Your Marriage (Guilford, 2001). At the April 4-6, 2003, BreakPoint conference, "Christians in the Marketplace," Jennifer Roback Morse spoke about the "laissez-faire family" and the new definition of freedom: "To be free is to be unencumbered by human relationships."


Chuck Colson


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