Washington Secrets

55% of teens live in broken homes: 8 of 10 in D.C.

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

A majority of 17-year-olds in America are children of broken marriages, a sometimes devastating situation that cuts their chances to graduate from high school and get a good job but boosts the possibility of out-of-wedlock teen births, according to a comprehensive review of U.S. Bureau of Census information.

The Marriage & Religion Research Institute's third annual report on families found that 55 percent of 17 year-olds live in homes where the parents have divorced or separated at some point. Just 45 percent of those teens live in an intact family with their biological mom and dad.

The statistics in the "Third Annual Index of Family Belonging & Rejection" show an even worse situation locally. In Washington, D.C., just 17 percent have been raised by both of their parents and in Baltimore it's 16 percent. The report said only Cleveland was worse, with 15 percent of 17-year-olds living with their original parents. San Jose, Calif. had the highest rate, with 56 percent of children being raised by their biological parents.

"Family intactness always has a beneficial influence," said the report provided to Secrets. "In many cases, family intactness is the most important factor in determining a beneficial outcome."

The group, MARRI for short, makes the point that that government should put a premium on programs that help parents stay together instead of focusing more on welfare and other programs for broken families. MARRI is a branch of the Family Research Council.

The impact of a stable family, said the report, is significant in several areas. First, it helps cut the rate of teen births. It also is "one of the greatest positive influences" on getting teens to graduate from high school. And it helps those aged 25-54, especially males, with employment.

Authors Patrick Fagan and Henry Potrykus said, "The state has hitherto ignored the importance of the intact married family in shaping the outcomes of its social policies. This neglect of marriage is an error of historical proportions."

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