Two recent statistics stand as warning signs that our youth are struggling — and they need our help. First, 1 in 4 American children grow up in a single-parent home, without a model of an intact, functional family. (Black children fare far worse: 72 percent grow up in a single parent home.) Second, one-third of people younger than 30 say they are unaffiliated with any religion. Perhaps more troubling, 88 percent of the unaffiliated say they are not even looking for religious connection.Either trend, standing along, spells trouble.
We know that children from single-parent homes, as a group, experience less successful outcomes than children raised by Mom and Dad together. And that’s in spite of the single mom or dad doing their absolute best. According to the Single Parent Success Foundation, individuals from single-parent families encompass 63 percent of suicides nationwide, 75 percent of children in chemical dependency hospitals, and more than half of all youths incarcerated in the U.S.
Children raised by a single parent are “two to three times more likely to drop out of high school,” says Bradford Wilcox, head of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, and boys from single-parent homes have double the risk of being arrested before they reach the age of 30.
And it matters greatly whether children attend church. Children who attend church tend to have better grades, lower risk of divorce as adults and are more likely to succeed in college. They also are less likely to become pregnant as teens or become delinquents, because church attendance helps them form “personal moral criteria and sound moral judgment,” according to one analyst. As a bonus, parents and children who attend church together tend to enjoy better relationships with each other.