U.N. Day of the Family: A Reminder of Civil Society’s Cornerstone

Collette Caprara /

Sunday, May 15, is the 2011 United Nations International Day of Families. It provides an opportunity to reflect on the wide-ranging role that the family plays in the well-being of our society. One important first step would be for the U.N. to recognize the benefits associated with family centered on a married mother and father.

Historically, the U.N. has not been a stalwart champion of the traditional family; too often it undermines parents and promotes radical social policies for children and young adults. The U.N. and its various entities could benefit from noting the impact that an intact family structure has had for children and families in the U.S.

Research has clearly shown that marriage and an intact family structure are associated with better financial prospects and a significant decrease in the likelihood of living in poverty. In fact, single-parent households are nearly six times as likely to be poor as married-parent families.

Yet, the positive ramifications of an intact family extend beyond today’s circumstances to benefits in the future as well, given that the behavior of children tends to reflect that of their parents, increasing the likelihood of successful marriages among generations to come. Conversely, children who experience parental divorce are themselves more likely to divorce or experience greater discord in their own marriages.

In addition, the intact family can serve as a buffer regarding youth risk behavior such as substance abuse and sexual activity at an early age, improving children’s prospects for the future and promoting a healthy civil society. Youths living with both parents are also more likely to enjoy a higher quality of psychological and emotional health and are less likely to exhibit problem behavior. And, last but not least, children in intact families tend to accomplish higher levels of academic achievement and educational attainment, enhancing both their own chances of success and their potential for contributing to the common welfare.

Midway between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, it’s appropriate to acknowledge the union that brings them together to found a family—the building block of strong and stable societies.