Federal Report Confirms 'Nuclear Family' Best for Children's Health

The outcome of state legislative elections last year ensured that same-sex "marriage" will continue to be hotly debated this year, with legislators in some states seeking to legalize it (Maryland), repeal it (New Hampshire), or amend their Constitution to prevent it (Indiana).

During such debates, Family Research Council and other pro-family groups note social science evidence showing children raised by their own mother and father, who are committed to one another in a lifelong marriage, are happier (experience better mental health), healthier (have better physical health), and more prosperous (attain higher socioeconomic status) than children raised in any other household setting. For example, the non-partisan research group Child Trends summarized the evidence this way:

"Research clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage."

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We point to this evidence in support of policies which would discourage divorce, cohabitation, and out-of-wedlock pregnancies, while encouraging sexual abstinence until marriage-as well as in opposing efforts to change the fundamental definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Yet more evidence along these lines can be found in a recently published federal study on "Family Structure and Children's Health in the United States." The report compares health outcomes on a variety of measures by family structure. Seven different categories of "families" are identified-"nuclear," "single-parent," "unmarried biological or adoptive," "blended," "cohabiting," "extended," and "other."

The "traditional" mother-father family is designated in this report as a "nuclear family," defined as "one or more children living with two parents who are married to one another and are each biological or adoptive parents to all children in the family." Since this is a federal government publication of research conducted by a federal agency, same-sex couples are not included in this definition-the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defines "marriage" as the union of a man and a woman for all purposes under federal law.

Below, in full, are what the abstract of the publication refers to as the "Highlights" of its findings. I have re-formatted the original text into a bullet point format for clarity, and I have included one explanatory note in [brackets]. Otherwise, the text is verbatim from the federal report.

Children in nuclear families were generally less likely than children in nonnuclear families
• to be in good, fair, or poor health [Note: these three categories are considered "less than optimal"];
• to have a basic action disability;
• to have learning disabilities or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder;
• to lack health insurance coverage;
• to have had two or more emergency room visits in the past 12 months;
• to have receipt of needed prescription medication delayed during the past 12 months due to lack of affordability;
• to have gone without needed dental care due to cost in the past 12 months;
• to be poorly behaved;
• and to have definite or severe emotional or behavioral difficulties during the past 6 months.

Children living in single-parent families had higher prevalence rates than children in nuclear families for the various health conditions and indicators examined in this report. However, when compared with children living in other nonnuclear families, children in single-parent families generally exhibited similar rates with respect to child health, access to care, and emotional or behavioral difficulties.

That last paragraph is intriguing. After saying that children in single-parent families have more problems than children in nuclear families, it seems to console single parents with the finding that their children generally do as well as those in other "nonnuclear" families.

This, however, directly contradicts one of the chief arguments used by those who want to redefine "marriage" to include homosexual couples. Whenever pro-family groups cite data like that above, showing that children do better when raised by their own married mother and father, the same-sex "marriage" advocates respond, "Oh, but those studies just compared kids raised by married couples with those raised by single parents. It isn't having a mother and father that matters-it's having the care of two loving adults."

Yet the "other nonnuclear families" in this study were all families in which the children were being raised by at least two adults. These other "two-adult" households, however, resulted in child outcomes more comparable to the single-parent families than to the "nuclear" mother-father families.

The advocates of marriage redefinition will have to find some other way to deny the obvious implications of the research-that children need a married mother and father.

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