Mapping America

Jan. 18, 2011

A new study verifies what many of us have known for some time. Children who grow up in an intact family and attend religious services do better than children who do not. Dr. Patrick Fagan at the Family Research Council documents this in Mapping America. He uses the data collected by Drs. Nicholas Zill and Philip Fletcher from the National Survey of Children’s Health.

They found a significant discrepancy between children who grew up in intact families (with both biological parents) and those who came from broken homes. They also found a similar discrepancy between those who attend religious services weekly and those who worship less frequently. They found that children in the former groups were five times less likely to repeat a grade, less likely to have behavior problems at home and school, and more likely to be cooperative and understanding of others’ feelings.

The benefits not only accrued to the children, but also had an impact on the parents. For example, parents of kids from intact families who worship regularly were much less likely (21 percent) to be contacted by the child’s school about behavior or achievement problems compared to parents (53 percent) whose kids were not living with both parents and not attending church services regularly. Parents of the children in the first group also report less stress, healthier parent-child relationships, and few concerns about their children’s achievement.

Even more surprising in the study was the these differences held true even after controlling for family income and poverty as well as for the parents’ education level, race, and ethnicity. In essence, the study suggests that the best prescription for society is a stable family and family worship. In this environment, children thrive emotionally and achieve academically. They become the foundation for the next generation of leaders and citizens.

In a sense, this study is the flip side of studies that were published years ago about the impact of divorce on children. In my book, Christian Ethics in Plain Language, I document the three e’s of negative impact of divorce (emotional impact, educational impact, and economic impact). Whether you look at these positive studies or the earlier negative studies, you can see the importance of family and worship. I’m Kerby Anderson, and that is my point of view.