Thursday, April 18, 2013

Why Fragile Families Don’t Marry

“He can’t support us. Why should I marry him?”

This mom is not alone in her resistance to matrimony. In fact, increasing evidence has many of the opponents of the Healthy Marriage Initiative on the offensive. While the reauthorization of the welfare reform bill will allocate substantial funds to states for the development of programs for improving relations between unmarried parents, those who challenge the bill argue that marriage is not the answer.

Critics of the marriage promotion programs point to barriers to marriage among what are called “fragile families,” unmarried parents who are raising a child or children together, who share a precarious economic status. The most commonly discussed barriers to marriage among this population are lack of stable employment, mental health problems, and domestic violence.
 Researchers from Princeton’s Center for Research on Child Wellbeing and Columbia University point out that nearly one-fifth of the unmarried parents among this group are not romantically involved and are thus not likely to get involved in a marriage program. Thirteen percent of these parents have a history of violence, indicating that marriage may not be a safe choice for the women and children in the family. Collectively, one-third of these unmarried couples are not good candidates for marriage promotion programs
On the other side of the debate, the same research suggests that an equal one-third of couples may benefit from marriage programs. This would occur only if they incorporate programs that address parents’ employment and mental health heeds. Now it’s in the hands of the policy makers to develop and fund appropriate programming for America’s fragile families

Source: Suzanna Smith for Family Album Radio, Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida

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