Story from Family Studies.
Young people are less likely to be victims of crime if they live in two-parent than in single-parent households. That has been a consistent finding of the National Crime Victimization Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice. But it has been unclear whether the safety advantage stems from married couples living in less dangerous neighborhoods, on average, than unmarried parents, or from other differences in vulnerability between family types. My analysis of recent data from another national survey shows that even when their families live in unsafe neighborhoods, children in married two-parent families are less likely to be exposed to violent crime than children of never-married and divorced parents.
In the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health, conducted by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, parents of 95,677 children aged 17 and under were asked whether their child was “ever the victim of violence or witnessed any violence in his or her neighborhood.” Among children living with their married biological parents, the overall rate of exposure to neighborhood violence was comparatively low: for every 1,000 children in intact families, 36 had witnessed or experienced neighborhood violence. By contrast, among children living with a never-married mother, the rate of violent crime exposure was nearly three times higher: 102 children per 1,000 had one or more such experiences. Among children living with a separated or divorced mother, the rate of exposure was more than twice as high as for children of married parents: 89 children per 1,000. (See Figure 1.) These comparisons are adjusted for differences across family types in the average age, sex, and race/ethnicity of the child; family income and poverty status; the parent’s education level; neighborhood quality; and frequency of residential moves.
Some might assume that the absence of an adult male to protect the household is key to the higher victimization rates of single-parent families. Yet children living with a biological parent and a stepparent also had an elevated rate of exposure to neighborhood violence: 84 children per 1,000. Even children living with both biological parents who were cohabiting rather than married had a significantly higher victimization rate—60 children per 1,000—though not as high as those in never-married or divorced families.
[…]Why are children living with never-married or separated and divorced mothers more susceptible to neighborhood violence? Beyond the greater likelihood of having to live in unsafe neighborhoods and the more frequent moves that often come with family disruption, there are several other factors that increase vulnerability. First is the stress of conflict between parents and the strain of raising children as a lone parent in reduced financial circumstances. These can lead to a lack of vigilance and the overlooking of simple precautions, such as making sure that doors and windows are locked in houses and vehicles. Second, if they have broken up with their child’s other parent, a single parent will usually begin dating and trying to find a new partner. This process often involves being out of the house at night, sometimes leaving children with no or inadequate supervision. Third, as children become adolescents, the peers they become involved with in their less-than-ideal neighborhoods and schools are often troubled ones, who can lead them into hazardous situations and activities.
Marriage matters! We can allow alternatives to natural marriage, but natural marriage is best for kids.
You can read more about the safety advantages of marriage for women and children in this Heritage Foundation paper. Marriage matters, and we should doing everything we can to shrink secular big government programs that discourage marriage (e.g. – single mother welfare), and promote programs that encourage people to marry and have children, (e.g. – getting rid of the marriage penalty). It’s a policy problem – we aren’t doing enough to help children when the secular big government is more interested in making it easier for people to not marry (single mother welfare), and breaking up existing marriages (no-fault divorce laws).