Why Marriage Matters 9

Why Marriage Matters 9

(Taken from “Twenty One Reasons why Marriage Matters,” by the National Marriage Coalition, found at www.marriage.org.au)

Crime and Domestic Violence

18. Boys raised in single-parent families are more likely to engage in delinquent and criminal behaviour.

“He will be a wild donkey of a man, his hand shall be against everyone, and everyone’s hand shall be against him.”  (God’s comment to Hagar about Ishmael, whom she was carrying in her womb, Gen.16:12).

Even after controlling for factors such as race, mother’s education, neighbourhood quality, and cognitive ability, boys raised in single-parent homes are about twice as likely (and boys raised in step families are three times as likely) to have committed a crime that leads to incarcera­tion by the time they reach their early thirties.

Teens in both one-parent and remarried homes display more deviant behaviour and commit more delinquent acts than do teens whose parents stayed married.Teens in one-parent families are on average less attached to their parent’s opinions and more attached to their peer groups. Combined with lower levels of parental supervision, these attitudes appear to set the stage for delinquent behav­iour.The effects of marital status on delinquency may be stronger for whites than for African-Americans.

In Australia, a recent book by Alan Tapper highlights this connection between broken families and crime. In a study of rising crime rates in Western Australia, Tapper sug­gests that “family breakdown in the form of divorce and separation is the main cause of the crime wave.”

A longitudinal study of 512 Australian children found that there are more offenders coming from families of co­habiting than married couples, and there are proportion­ally more offenders who become recidivists coming from families of cohabiting than married couples. The study concludes, “The relationship between cohabitation and delinquency is beyond contention: children of cohabiting couples are more likely to be found among offenders than children of married couples.”

Those who work with juvenile offenders in Australia confirm these findings. John Smith of Care and Com­munication Concern in Melbourne has spent nearly two decades working with homeless youth and young offend­ers. He says that “almost 100 per cent” of these kids are from “single parent families or blended families”.And a recent New Zealand study found that 64.6 per cent of juvenile offenders had no birth father present.

Overall, single and divorced women are four to five times more likely to be victims of violent crime.


19. Marriage appears to reduce the risk that adults will be either perpetrators or victims of crime.

Overrall, single and divorced women are four to five times more likely to be victims of violent crime in any given year than are married women. Single and divorced women are almost ten times more likely than are wives to be raped, and about three times more likely to be the victims of aggravated assault. Similarly, compared to husbands, unmarried men are about four times as likely to become victims of violent crime.

A study of 500 chronic juvenile offenders found that those who married and stayed married reduced their of­fence rate by two-thirds, compared to criminals who did not marry or who did not establish good marriages.Married men spend more time with their wives, who discourage criminal behaviour, and less time with peers, who often do not.

As one leading family expert has summarised the findings: “Australian studies with adequate samples have shown parental divorce to be a risk factor for a wide range of social and psychological problems in adolescence and adulthood, including poor academic achievement, low self-esteem, psychological distress, delinquency and recidivism, substance use and abuse, sexual precocity, adult criminal offending, depression, and suicidal behaviour.”He concludes: “There is no scientific justification for disregarding the public health significance of marital dissolution in Australia, espe­cially with respect to mental heath.”

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