As Americans gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, one of the blessings for which many are grateful is the family members that surround the table. There are actually data behind that warm sentiment: Strong families are priceless, providing an abundance of benefits to both adults and children and creating the bonds of strong societies.
Marriage Protects Against Poverty
Marriage is the single greatest protection against child poverty. Overall, children in married-parent families are more than 80 percent less likely to be poor. Marriage’s shield against poverty holds similar protection across education levels: Married couples with children are 76 percent less likely to be poor than non-married families with the same level of education. A married family headed by a high school dropout, for example, is less likely to be poor than a non-married family headed by an individual with some college.
Women who have ever been married or are currently married are also less likely to experience poverty. Compared to women who have never been married, those who have been married—regardless of a variety of background factors—are a third less likely to be poor. And women who are currently married have an even lower probability of poverty—two-thirds less, according to researchers.
Marriage Connected with Better Health, Longer Life
Marriage is also connected to better health. On average, married women reported not only the best physical health, but also the best psychological health. Married individuals also tend to experience less depression and fewer alcohol problems.
Marriage is also connected to greater longevity. Those who have never married, for example, experience nearly twice the mortality risk of those who are married. Those who are divorced or separated have a 50 percent higher rate of mortality than married individuals.
Children raised in intact families also report better health, both physical and emotional.
Family Creates a Protective Environment
Marriage also means greater protection for women and children. Married women and children from married-parent homes are less likely to be abused. Never-married women are more than four times as likely to be victims of domestic violence compared to married women.
Children living outside of married, biological-parent homes are also much more likely to experience abuse. Researchers have found that children living with a single parent and their parent’s romantic partner are approximately 10 times as likely to be physically abused. Even children living with both biological parents are at greater risk of physical abuse (more than four times as likely).
Strong Families Increase Children’s Likelihood of Success
Children raised in intact families are more likely to achieve in ways that help them to thrive as adults. They do better academically, increasing their own chances for financial stability down the road, completing on average more years of schooling as well as being more likely to graduate from high school and college. Children raised in intact families are also more likely to experience stable and healthy romantic relationships as adults, protecting themselves and their children from family instability and its accompanying challenges.
Strong marriages and families provide numerous measurable—and non-measurable—benefits to society, something for which all Americans can be grateful. Policies should respect and promote this crucial institution.