More single fathers are raising children than ever before, according to a recent Pew research survey. Since the 1960s, the number of households with children headed by single dads has increased ninefold and today is about 8 percent.
The growing trend of single-father households is part of the overall growth in unwed childbearing. Today, more than 40 percent of children are born outside marriage, compared to only 7 percent in the 1960s.
This trend matters because, for one thing, children raised in married-parent families are far less likely to live in poverty. While children in single-father homes have less risk of being poor than those in single-mother homes, they are still more likely to be poor compared to their peers in married-parent families.
But it isn’t just money. Being raised by married, biological parents protects children from a host of risks, including delinquency, substance abuse, early sexual activity, and dropping out of high school. Children in married-parent families are also far less likely to be abused.
Leaders at every level of society should work to help young people fulfill their dreams of a happy, stable marriage and family and to ensure that children are raised by the parents who give them life. There is no single way to accomplish this—all the more reason that effort is sorely needed.
Two states have been good leaders in these efforts. Oklahoma and Utah have both invested in state marriage initiatives, providing marriage and relationship education to youth and couples who are at risk or already dependent on government services. Other states operate community marriage initiatives, such as First Things First in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Richmond, Virginia. It provides marriage education, operates public advertising campaigns to inform people about the importance of marriage, and holds community events for couples and families.
Similar and greater efforts are needed across the country.
Marriage protects children. It benefits both women and men. The breakdown of marriage leaves children and adults vulnerable and ultimately leads to weaker communities. Leaders at every level of society should make efforts to strengthen marriage and reverse the trends of the past five decades.