The Family Research Council’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute released a new study last Friday showing how closely woven are marriage and economic security for children. Statistics show that anywhere from a third to a half of children who live with a single parent live in poverty, compared to only 5.8% of children who live with their married parents. A study that was done a few months ago by the Omaha World Herald concluded that poverty usually did not come down to a matter of race as much as it was a matter of the marital status of the child’s parents.
Of course, if you are like me, you assume that this only makes sense. Two incomes have to be better than one. However, the study also showed that married households did much better than those couples who were simply cohabitating. For couples who were living together, the poverty level was almost twice as high as couples who were married. Married men tend to make more than unmarried men. (I’m not sure what that means exactly. Is it a comment on the type of men who refuse to make a marriage commitment or on how they are viewed by society? The study didn’t really say. I can give you my opinion on men who won’t commit, but I’m not sure it is totally relevant!)
This is no big surprise, but the report also showed that divorce can have a devastating economic impact upon the family; particularly upon the woman, and, therefore, the children. They tend to take a nosedive into poverty, even with child support payments. Of course, the devastating emotional impact that a break-up of a family usually has on all the members is obvious. The economic implications are just one more factor to make a bad situation worse.
Ann Coulter, in her book, “Guilty,” points out the following tragic statistics about children from single parent households: they make up 80% of all prison inmates and comprise 72% of all juvenile murderers; in addition, 60% of all rapists come from single parent homes. The same is true for 70% of teenage births, dropouts, suicides and runaways. In turn, the vast majority of teen pregnancies occur to girls raised by a single mother.
A few months ago, I sat across from a young mother. “I’m only 20 and I already have two little ones at home,” she said, barely able to look me in the eye. “I don’t know how I’m going to do it with one more. I’m ashamed to tell my family. They tell me I need to get my life together. So, how am I going to tell them that I’m going to have another baby?”
This young woman broke my heart. She looked younger than 20, but her eyes had dark circles which betrayed her worry and fatigue. The children were the result of two different fathers, neither of whom were on the scene. She lived with her sister, who helped out all she could. Her future looked so bleak that it was hard to know what to tell her!
So, in our work at the Center, where does that place us? Well, our first concern is always the life of the unborn child. Yes, birth into a single-parent home places children at a great disadvantage in life. However, killing the child to save them from potential (albeit startling) problems can never be the solution. In life, even against great odds, there is always hope. Abortion snuffs out those hopes as it snuffs out the life of the child.
At the AAA Center for Pregnancy Counseling, it is upon the life in the womb that we must focus our discussions and prayers. We present adoption to everyone as a loving choice for their child. However, less than 1% of single pregnant women choose adoption. Most of the time, they are too consumed with making that life or death choice to hear us. And, of course, our focus needs to be upon the survival of their child.
It is heartbreaking, however, to hear about the lives of some of these young women, and to realize the bleak future their children probably face, even if they do choose life. Poverty, no healthy male role-models, a dysfunctional mother: these are the things that await the innocent children yet to be born. We rejoice that at least they will have a chance to live but wish there was a brighter future awaiting them as well.
It is this very quandary which propelled us years ago to go to the schools with a message of abstinence. Our speakers encourage young people to focus on their dreams and to not sacrifice their futures for a fleeting sexual relationship. They tell the students that marriage provides the best and most fulfilling sex, as well as allowing them a hopeful future.
We are especially excited about a new program (which we will probably be using in the fall) which focuses on marriage. Called, “Marriage is Cool!” its aim is to bring black couples with successful marriages into the classroom to show students that a committed, lifelong relationship is possible. Recent statistics show that only 17% of African-American 17 year olds live with their married parents. It is pretty safe to say that this community will never rise out of poverty unless committed marriages re-enter the picture!
Please pray for our speakers! In the past we have only seen students in the 8th and 10th grades; this fall, we have been speaking with school officials about opportunities to speak to all grades 6-12! So far, we have been amazed at the open doors we have received. With prayer, we should be able to walk through those doors and make this program a reality!
Keeping it true! Barb