Fatherlessness, Poverty and Crime

Fatherlessness, Poverty and Crime

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An analysis of 50 separate studies of juvenile crime revealed that the prevalence of delinquency in broken homes was 10-15 percent higher than in intact homes. In addition, there were no appreciable differences in the impact of broken homes between girls and boys or between black youths and white youth.
Edward Wells and Joseph Rankin, “Families and Delinquency: A Meta-Analysis of the Impact of Broken Homes,” Social Problems 38 (1991): 71-89.

A study of adolescents convicted of homicide in adult court found that at the time of the crimes, 42.9 percent of their parents had never been married, 29.5 percent were divorced and 8.9 percent were separated. Less than 20 percent of these children were from married parent households.
Patrick Darby, Wesley Allan, Javad Kashani, Kenneth Hartke and John Reid, “Analysis of 112 Juveniles Who Committed Homicide: Characteristics and a Closer Look at Family Abuse,” Journal of Family Violence 13 (1998): 365-374.

Boys who are fatherless from birth are 3.061 times as likely to go to jail as peers from intact families, while boys who do not see their father depart until they are 10 to 14 years old are 2.396 times as likely to go to jail as peers from intact families.  Cynthia C. Harper and Sara S. McLanahan, “Father Absence and Youth Incarceration,” Journal of Research on Adolescence 14 (2004): 369-397

States with a lower percentage of single-parent families, on average, had lower rates of juvenile crime. State-by-state analysis indicated that, in general, a 10-percent increase in the number of children living in single-parent homes (including divorces) accompanied a 17-percent increase in juvenile crime.
Patrick Fagan, The Real Root Causes of Violent Crime: The Breakdown of Marriage, Family, and Community, The Heritage Foundation, Backgrounder #1026, March 17, 1995.

A study of juvenile crime in rural areas revealed that broken homes were strongly associated with higher rates of arrest for violent crimes, while poverty was not directly associated with juvenile violence.  D. Wayne Osgood and Jeff Chambers, “Social Disorganization Outside the Metropolis: An Analysis of Rural Youth Violence,” Criminology 38 (2000): 81-115.

 “Among married two-parent families, whether white or black, the crime rate was very low.  The capacity and determination to maintain stable married relationships, not race, was cited as the pivotal factor.  Chaotic, broken communities resulted from chaotic, broken families.”  Patrick Fagan, “The Real Root Causes of Violent Crime:  The Breakdown of Marriage, Family, and Community,” The Heritage Foundation, Backgrounder #1026, March 1995.

The economic benefits of marriage are not limited to the middle class; some 70 percent of never-married mothers would be able to escape poverty if they were married to the father of their children.
Robert Rector, Kirk Johnson, Patrick Fagan and Lauren Noyes, “Increasing Marriage Will Dramatically Reduce Child Poverty,” Heritage Foundation Center for Data Analysis Report No. CDA03-06, May 20, 2003.

If enough marriages had taken place to return the incidence of single parenting to 1970 levels, and the incomes of the men and women were combined, the poverty rate among children in 1998 would have fallen by about a third.
Isabel Sawhill, “The Behavioral Aspects of Poverty,” The Public Interest, Fall 2003.

The poverty rate for all children in married-couple families was 8.2 percent. By contrast, the poverty rate for all children in single-parent families was four times higher at 35.2 percent.Robert Rector, Kirk Johnson and Patrick Fagan, The Effect of Marriage on Child Poverty, The Heritage Foundation, April 15, 2002.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 6.6 percent of married couples with children lived below the poverty level, while 17.4 percent of non-family householders and 34.3 percent of female-only parent households with children lived in poverty.
QT-P35. Poverty Status in 1999 of Families and Non-family Householders: 2000, Census 2000 Summary File 3 (SF 3) – Sample Data.

Divorce and unmarried childbearing increase child poverty. The majority of children who grew up outside of married families had experienced at least one year of dire poverty.
Mark Rank and Thomas Hirschl, “The Economic Risk of Childhood in America: Estimating the Probability of Poverty Across the Formative Years,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 61(1999): 1,058-1,067.

The median income of married-parent households whose heads have only a high school diploma was 10 percent higher than the median income of college–educated, single-parent households. Parents who are college graduates and married were the economic elite.
Analysis of Current Population Statistics, Families With One or More Children Under 18, The Northeastern University Center for Labor Market Studies, 1994, as sourced from Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, “The Divorce Culture,” Vintage Books, Random House, New York, 1996.

Ever-married women, regardless of race or education, had a poverty rate roughly one-third lower than the poverty rate experienced by never-married women.
Daniel Lichter, Deborah Roempke Graefe and J. Brian Brown, “Is Marriage a Panacea? Union Formation Among Economically Disadvantaged Un-wed Mothers,” Social Problems 50(2003): 60-86.

Marriage — especially if low-conflict and long-lasting — was a source of economic, educational and social advantage for most children. Researchers agreed that, except in cases of high and unremitting parental conflict, children who grew up in households with their married mother and father did better on a wide range of economic, social, educational and emotional measures than the children raised in other kinds of family arrangements. Mary Parke, “Are Married Parents Really Better for Children?,” Center for Law and Social Policy, May 2003.

 Growing up with both married parents in a low-conflict marriage was so important to child wellbeing that it was replacing race, class, and neighborhood as the greatest source of difference in child outcomes.
Testimony of Barbara Dafoe Whitehead Before The Committee On Health, Education, Labor And Pensions Subcommittee On Children And Families, U.S. Senate, April 28, 2004.

“Having a child outside of marriage virtually guarantees a teenage woman and her children a life of poverty, low education, low expectations and low achievement. It gradually puts in place the conditions which foster rejection and, ultimately, crime.”
Patrick Fagan, The Real Root Causes of Violent Crime: The Breakdown of Marriage, Family, and Community Backgrounder #1026 March 17, 1995.

Adolescents from intact two-parent (mother/father) families were less likely to be suspended or expelled from school, less likely to commit delinquent crimes, less likely to be reported for problem behaviors at school, less likely to receive low grades in two or more subjects and more likely to score well on standard tests of cognitive development.
Wendy Manning and Kathleen Lamb, “Adolescent Well-Being in Cohabiting, Married, and single-Parent Families,” Journal of Marriage and Family 65(2003): 876-893.

Students who were living with both parents in an intact family had consistently higher reading and math scores than their peers from other living arrangements. Socioeconomic factors reduced, but did not account for this correlation.
Gary Marks, “Family Size, Family Type, and Student Achievement:  Cross National Differences and the Role of Socioeconomic and School Factors,” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 37 (2006): 1-24.

“[A]dolescents living with their continuously married biological parents have significantly lower behavioral problem scores compared to all other family types, even controlling for maternal and adolescent background characteristics.”
Marcia Carlson, “Family Structure, Father Involvement, and Adolescent Outcomes,” Journal of Marriage and Family 68 (2006): 137-154.

In studies involving more than 25,000 children, those who lived with only one parent had lower grade-point averages, lower college aspirations, lower attendance records and higher dropout rates than students who lived with both parents. Adolescents who had lived apart from one of their parents during some period of childhood were twice as likely to drop out of high school and one-and-a half times as likely to be “idle” — out of school or out of work — in their late teens and early 20s.
Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur, Growing up with a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1994):  2, 37, 41, 46, 47, 50, 52, 53, 60.

Children who lived with their biological parents had fewer behavior problems and experienced better general adjustment in school than children who lived with divorced parents or with a mother who had re-married. Children in intact families achieved higher grades and engaged in fewer problem behaviors than peers in single-parent or step-families. 

Cheryl Buehler and Kay Pasley, “Family Boundary Ambiguity, Marital Status, and Child Adjustment,Journal of Early Adolescence 20(2000): 281-308.

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