Issues and Facts
  • How Do We Keep Families Intact?

    Posted on   4/21/2014  5:44 PM

    What is a family?

    Is it a family when dad is in prison, and the child is raised by his mother who has a live-in boyfriend with two other children? Is it a family when dad and mom are both incarcerated, and the child is raised by a grandmother, an aunt, or a close family friend? 

    So many children of prisoners are growing up in non-traditional families. But so are many other children, too.

    The concept of family has radically changed in American society in the past few decades. Data shows that fewer Americans are getting married, and those who do so are having fewer children or none at all. Many marriages are ending in divorce. And more people are living alone, and others are cohabiting with someone, or marrying more than once and creating step-families.

    Our society today is more diverse than ever, and no longer dominated by traditional families, which consist of a husband and wife and their children. By that definition, most households in the U.S. are non-traditional.

    But with these changes come harsh realities.

    Research also shows single parenthood and other alternative families hurt children and those who care for them, as well as those for whom our children will care for later in life, according to the Witherspoon Institute:

    “Non-traditional family structures are the greatest cause of American children's living under the poverty line. In the United States, only about 10% of children raised in a two-parent family live below the poverty line. (But) approximately 66% of children from single-parent families live below the poverty line.”

    The institute’s troubling findings don’t end there:

    “The increase of non-traditional family structures has produced a large number of children who suffer from behavioral problems. Their struggles have robbed them of a good future and have hurt the lives of countless others affected by their actions. These behavioral problems significantly impact the long-term economic welfare of these youth.

    Boys from single-parent families are much more likely to join gangs than their counterparts in two-parent families. Generally speaking, about 90% of adolescents and pre-adolescents in gangs come from single-parent families.”

    This explains a lot about the state of our children who are living without the love, care and financial support of their incarcerated parents.

    Many two-parent families are far from perfect -- but if our nation is trying to regain a healthy marriage culture, and the economic prosperity and personal flourishing that comes with it, what do we need to do to encourage the creation of “intact families that remain intact,” as Witherspoon Institute calls it?

    Tell us below. 

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