Reported Findings of Study are Distorted

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Reported Findings of Study are Distorted
Results are Contaminated by Lumping Together “Partners” and “Parents”
February 28, 2002

A just-released study from Johns Hopkins University found that the major problem facing poor children is what the study’s author called “churning”-the sheer number of transitions children undergo in their living arrangements. Most of the churning comes from the break-up of live-in relationships. The instability of such break-ups causes “serious problems” for children. But that is not what made the headlines. The New York Times headline about the study trumpeted “2 Parents Not Always Best for Children, Study Finds.” No, actually, the opening sentence in the Times’ article reported that “Two-partner households may not necessarily be better for poor children than single-parent households.”

Janice Shaw Crouse, Senior Fellow of the Beverly LaHaye Institute: A Center For Studies in Women’s Issues, the research arm of Concerned Women for America, said, “A careful reading of the Times article reveals that the two concepts (two-parent families vs two-partner households) are used interchangeably. Research literature clearly shows that there is a world of difference between the attitude and actions of a live-in boyfriend and a biological father who is married to the mother of his children.”

Crouse continued, “Reports about the study are confusing because scholars increasingly are not differentiating between ‘two-parent’ families and ‘two-partner households.’ Despite all the findings to the contrary, the latest attitude is, ‘What difference does marriage make as long as two adults are present?’ Lacking that distinction, the reports about the study are misleading.”

The study specifically notes that about “two thirds of these new two adult households were people living together, not married.”

The researchers reported, “Virtually all of the cohabitating and marriage that began during the 16 months of the studies involved a mother and a man who was not the child’s biological father.”

In fact, “the percentage of children living with both biological parents did not increase” and “only a fifth of the children in the study lived with married, biological parents.”

The author of the Johns Hopkins study, Andrew J. Cherlin, has serious doubts about the Bush Administration’s emphasis on marriage programs for low-income people because “children might not benefit as much from the trend toward two-parent families as we might think.” Crouse said, “Cherlin’s comment is a dramatic example of the importance of keeping the definition of family consistent. The experiences of a child growing up in a two-parent family are distinctly different from those of a child growing up in a household where there are two adults with one partner periodically being replaced by another partner.”

Crouse concluded, “While sophisticated researchers might not be able to tell the difference between a household consisting of two married parents and their biological or adopted children and a household consisting of a mother and a boyfriend, a child instinctively knows and is deeply affected by the difference between a father and a boyfriend.”

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