Teens learn contempt for marriage from their parents


Fewer than half of American 17 year-olds are being raised by both biological parents in an intact family, the most devastating casualty in the marriage battle raging in America today, according to Patrick Fagan, senior fellow and director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute. Fagan discussed the state of the American family and released the Fourth Index of Family Belonging in a webcast hosted by the Family Research Council on Wednesday. 

The study calculated the percentage of 17 year olds in the United States raised by both biological parents in an intact family since birth. The regional index ranged from a high of 50 percent in the Northeast to a low of 42 percent in the South. The Asian community had the most teens living in intact families, 65 percent, while African-Americans had the fewest, 17 percent.

Marriage is the foundational piece for every other aspect of society, Fagan said. Strong, healthy marriages produce strong, healthy families. Strong families produce healthy churches and strong schools. A well-educated population manifests a strong economy, and only a strong economy can support a strong government and nation. When the family is weakened, all of society suffers.

The war on the family is no accident, Fagan said. A battle against marriage has been going on for at least 100 years. The Marxists who came to the United States when Hitler came to power in Germany brought their belief that marriage was an opponent to be destroyed. Now, Fagan said, some American cultural and thought leaders are devoted to the destruction of marriage.

And they've succeeded, to a certain extent. Since the women's liberation movement and the sexual revolution, the path to marriage is a lot more complex, said Jennifer Marshall, director of domestic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation. When the culture does not have a high view of marriage, young couples are left to devise their own standards. Marriage skills are more caught than taught. When more than half of all adolescents grow up without an intact family, they are less likely to catch marriage skills because they are never modeled.

While the problem can only be solved on an individual basis, the community and even the state can help strengthen the family, Marshall said. On an individual basis, she recommends married couples mentor young people in an environment where marriage skills can be caught. States can strengthen marriages through policy-making, offering temporary assistance to families in need and promoting marriage resources to help couples enter and sustain healthy marriages, Marshall said.

Although the panelists who spoke Wednesday pointed to policies and talked about fighting for the family, couples themselves must choose to stay together, Fagan said. The battle for marriage it is not about going to war, it is about love. Teenage boys need to realize their children need fathers married to mothers for the rest of their lives. "The people who will win this battle are those who will love," Fagan said.