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The American Family
With a huge decrease in traditional marriage how are children affected, and why would
marriage make a difference?
The world we live in today is not the same as it was 20
years ago. Coming from a society where marriage was a
standard by most people, our society today has a whole new
view of marriage. By extension, the divorce and cohabitation
rates have skyrocketed in the last decade (Livingston). The
question to be asked is, how does this affect the children?
Pew Research Center reports that “fewer than half (46%)
of U.S. kids 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” (Livingston). The trends of today’s generation

differ drastically from the traditions of the older generation. Cohabitation, divorce, same sex
marriage, and single parenting are all becoming increasingly more prevalent. The idea of a
married father and mother raising children together is becoming more of an idea of the past than
a realistic possibility (Nuclear). But the question we have to ask is, does it matter?
What differences are suspected from traditional versus non traditional homes? It’s hard to
say exactly, especially when every story has a different ending. An angry or abusive marriage
will have a far different effect on a child then an uplifting safe one.
Why Marriage
An article from The Washington Post claims that “Children raised by two parents tend to
be more successful — at school, in the future labor market, in their own marriages — than
children raised by a single mom or dad” (Badger). A child raised by a single parent “can
increase the risk of children performing poorly in school” (Kunz). The New York Post states that
“children who grow up in fatherless households are more
likely than those in standard, two-parent homes to grow up
poor, drop out of school or get in trouble with the law. Or, in
the case of girls, to get pregnant as teens” (Nuclear).

Howard and Reeves designed
their own benchmark of
success to analyze effects of
marriage on a child. For
example “adolescent success
… is to graduate high school
with a GPA of at least 2.5
and without either becoming
a parent or getting a
criminal record” (Howard
and Reeves).

The Divorce Debate

While it appears that marriage plays a significant role in a child's success we must also
consider the negative effects of marriage on children, especially if the marriage is an unhealthy
one. Brette Sember from The Huffington Post has said,

If you stay married for the sake of your children, you expose them to daily arguments,
negative undercurrents, shouting, possible violence, and an atmosphere that is in no way
calm and peaceful. This has a huge impact on your child. When parents stay in a bad
marriage, kids have to cope with the fall out from a never ending cycle of disputes,
resentment, sadness, and even hate.

With this perspective, divorce may bring more stability to a child's life than “permanent
emotional damage children suffer when they stay in one home with parents who can't get
along” (Sember).
The Marriage Phenomenon
So why does our relationship status have an effect on children? If marriage is just a
government issued contract between two people, why should it make a difference? Marriage
may just be a formality, but Emily Badger from the Washington Post believes that “the same
skills that make marriages work (like commitment and patience) also come handy for good
parenting.” One of the main topics of discussion is family income. Some would say that the
main difference between these families is that “Two earners are better than one, and one
household is cheaper to run than two” (Howard and Reeves). These families save money that
can be later used for things as simple as food, a stable home, books, or even just health care.

Others have also attributed the difference to actual time spent with children, which
married couples statistically have more of due to four hands around the house instead of two.
“One of the main family inputs to a child’s success is the emotional support and cognitive
stimulation that they receive from their parents,” which could be an effect of the extra time with
the family (Howard and Reeves). Stability can also play a large role in a child's life. Some
would argue that marriage symbolizes commitment and trust, which rubs off on the children. “It
is plausible that parents who commit to each other through marriage may also have a stronger
joint commitment to raising their children” (Howard and Reeves).
On the other hand Brette
Sember shares that “while it takes
time to find your equilibrium after
divorcing, it does happen for most
people and is certainly a better
outcome than living unhappily for
years in a difficult marriage”—
(N.d. Childhood)

which she says is very impactful
for the children. Makes sense, “Happy people are better parents (Sember).”

There is so much that goes into raising a child and providing an environment of peace,
safety, and happiness. Parents devote their lives to raising their children with the hopes that
someday their children will be blessed with fulfilling lives of their own. The time honored
tradition of family is shifting. With marriage habits continuing to change so rapidly, who is to
say what will be considered The American Family in ten years from now?

Work Cited
Badger, Emily. "Children with Married Parents Are Better off - but Marriage Isn't the Reason
Why." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 8 Sept. 2014. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.

Buttars, Laura D. 2015. Millcreek. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.

Howard, Kimberly, and Richard V. Reeves. "The Marriage Effect: Money or Parenting?" The
Brookings Institution. N.p., 04 Sept. 2014. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.

Kunz, Marnie. "The Effects of a Single Parent Home on a Child's Behavior."
LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 15 Apr. 2015. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.

Livingston, Gretchen. "Fewer than Half of U.S. Kids Today Live in a "traditional" Family." Pew
Research Center (2014): n. pag. 22 Dec. 2014. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.

N.d. Childhood Health Self Test. Psycall Telepsychotherapy. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.

"Nuclear (family) alarm!" New York Post [New York, NY] 25 July 2014: 010. Opposing
Viewpoints in Context. Web. 17 Feb. 2016.

Sember, Brette. "Why a Good Divorce Is Better Than a Bad Marriage for Kids." The Huffington
Post., 24 May 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.