December 22, 2014

Fewer than half of U.S. kids today live in a ‘traditional’ family

Less than half of U.S. kids today live in a ‘traditional’ family

Fewer than half (46%) of U.S. kids younger than 18 years of age are living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage. This is a marked change from 1960, when 73% of children fit this description, and 1980, when 61% did, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of recently released American Community Survey (ACS) and Decennial Census data.

Less than half of U.S. kids today live in a ‘traditional’ family Rapid changes in American family structure have altered the image of who’s gathering for the holidays. While the old “ideal” involved couples marrying young, then starting a family, and staying married till “death do they part,” the family has become more complex, and less “traditional.”

Americans are delaying marriage, and more may be foregoing the institution altogether. At the same time, the share of children born outside of marriage now stands at 41%, up from just 5% in 1960. While debate continues as to whether divorce rates have been rising or falling in recent decades, it’s clear that in the longer term, the share of people who have been previously married is rising, as is remarriage.

According to our analysis, today 15% of children are living with two parents who are in a remarriage. It is difficult to accurately identify stepchildren in the ACS data, so we don’t know for sure if these kids are from another union, or were born within the remarriage. However, data from another Census source—the 2013 Current Population Survey (CPS)—indicates that 6% of all children are living with a stepparent.

One of the largest shifts in family structure is this: 34% of children today are living with an unmarried parent—up from just 9% in 1960, and 19% in 1980. In most cases, these unmarried parents are single. However, a small share of all children—4%—are living with two cohabiting parents, according to CPS data. Because of concerns about the quality of the new 2013 ACS data on same-sex marriage, we do not separate out the very small number of children whose parents are identified as in this type of union, but instead fold them into this “single parent” category.

The remaining 5% of children are not living with either parent. In most of these cases, they are living with a grandparent—a phenomenon that has become much more prevalent since the recent economic recession.

Topics: Demographics, Marriage and Divorce, Parenthood

  1. Photo of Gretchen Livingston

    is a senior researcher focusing on fertility and family demographics at Pew Research Center.


  1. Anonymous1 year ago

    this is sad…really

  2. Porter Sykes2 years ago

    The family can be complicated, especially in these times. There are lots of issues and differences that can rise up between people. Although there are many different kinds of families, and many can find success through love and nurture, I feel that a family headed by a mother and father in love and unity provides the greatest possibilities for children. All marriages will experience problems and conflicts. Big ones at times. Life is just like that, hard. However, the new trend is that when something is hard you can just get out, quit, and that seems to be a rising trend in the family as well. When a family is broken there is lost opportunity for mutual growth and love among parents and children as well as brothers and sisters. Being in a family really needs to be about putting the needs of someone else above your own, and that really creates an environment of love, mutual respect, and progress. When parents have the perspective that their family can last longer than just this life, it helps them to realize that their is such great potential in the family. Some of our greatest difficulties can come through family issues, but at the same time, the greatest happiness we can and will ever experience will be through our families.

  3. tommy rittner2 years ago

    my parnets got a divorce and its not really having an effect on me, is something wrong???

    1. jack2 years ago

      no don’t worry my parents had a divorce, you may not be affected, but you may start to realize you’re acting differently or are affected and don’t want to admit it. you’re not “heartless” or cold, like u might think you are, it’s ok.

      1. Pam Detweiler2 years ago

        Numb to their need, a reason for the commitment to another through sacrifice!! Dying to self is our real need in marriage. Very few are willing to put the children above themselves! It is an all about ‘me’existence as the children are forced to live through the fall out, the stark carnage, of a Godless non nurtured, sadly egnored generation! Loving things and abusing or egnoring little people! It is a cause for deep sadness, for all!

        1. Julie2 years ago

          Agreed. Ask a parent if they’d give their right arm for their child and most all of them would answer a resounding “Yes!” Ask them to stay in a difficult marriage and work on it for the sake of their children and the answer is not so unanimous. Children in intact families do better on every measure of success. Marriages can (and often do) get better with maturity. You have to be willing to stick it out through both the good times AND the bad.

    2. Anonymous1 year ago

      no,theres nothing wrong with you maybe you just dont have a big affect on it like your okay with it

  4. Bob Schwarz2 years ago

    I write a global blog called EXODUS TREKKERS, and would like to know if your stats in this very fine article have been or need to be significantly up[dated…Bob

  5. Kalita2 years ago

    well I’m not surprised… people these days are not as responsible and aren’t ready to handle family or marriage as well… and when girls get pregnant guys duck out and are like “well handle your own crap I’m outta here” and then this info pops up.

  6. Batman2 years ago

    not accurate information what so ever

  7. Anon2 years ago

    Been on my own since 14. My adoptive mother died when I had just turned 13- I had no relationship with her husband. When she died, he sent me off to abusive places under the guise of “getting help” my entire college fund was spent up to a million dollars in places that were abusive. I aged out of these facilities at 18 and have been on my own since. I never had anyone (closed adoption) and since 13 have never really had anyone. Been on my own.

    1. Anonymous1 year ago

      My heart goes out to you. Realize there is someone who had always been there waiting for you, who will alway love you no matyet what you have done or where you have been. God wil alway love you, he loves you so much he sent his son to die one the cross for you all you have to do is take the first step, and ask him into your heart

  8. Kristin Yokum2 years ago

    On the subject of kids living with grandparents, I agree that it has become more prevalent. And I think it has caused a lot of issues not only in the children’s lives but also in the grandparents as well. Not only that, elderly people, in my opinion, aren’t usually equipped to care for children due to health issues caused by old age.

  9. Bridgitt Lee2 years ago

    A lot of gay people and asexual people got married and/or had children, because they thought they were supposed to, even though deep down, they knew it wasn’t for them. They pretty much hide in the closet until they can’t take it, and end up divorced. I grew up in amily wre the women are happily single. The hated the marriage/mortage thing, said it’s trap, and they dnured a lot of thankless suffering from their husbands family,a nd from the governemt. They were not happily married at all, some of them had kids, even though they didn’t want them or couldn’t afford them, and deeply regret it, I have a grandmother who hates her son, because he is very abusive, and she wishes she could have aborted him, because he’s disgusting, and he hides behind his religion. As she said, none of her prayers were answered, so she gave up, and goes one day at a time. She doesn’t push religion on my mom or I at all. Pretty much the women got married because they thought they supposed to, even though they really didn’t know better or didn’t want it, and stayed and endured lots of hardships and tragedies and got nothing out of it, and only now have peace in being single. A lot of them stayed married because of religion and tradition, even thought he best thing would have been to stay single or to get divorced. Them staying together helped to screw up their kid and kids even more. The women sacrificed and compromised for nothing, and hated it. Some single parents do a pretty good job, you know?

    1. Alicia2 years ago

      The Bible says the homosexual life is a sin.Those who do such things will not enter heaven.But those who repent and receive Jesus will find salvation if they abandon their former works.Remarriage according to the Bible is also sin unless the first spouse is deceased.
      Romans 7:2-3
      1 Corinthians 7:39
      Matthew 5:31-32
      1 Corinthians 6:9-11
      I pray you find what you are looking for in Christ Jesus alone!
      John 3:16
      For God so loved the world
      That He gave His only Son
      that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

      1. Pastor Steve2 years ago

        Allcia, you are exactly the kind of person that omits grace. It is not your place to condemn or convict. It’s your job to love your neighbor as yourself. You without sin cast the first stone. I guarantee you if I was fly on your wall for 10 minutes I could formulate a long list of sins in your life. Sin does not have sub categories…your just as much a sinner as a liar, gossip as is a murderer or in your words….a gay person. Put your rocks back in your pocket and use them for your house. And PLEASE don’t go to church….you will ruin the experience for someone else. Stay home and watch TV evangelist.

        1. Kim2 years ago

          “Pastor Steve” Can you just chill for a moment? She’s not slamming anybody, she’s stating her beliefs. I happen to agree with her, and she’s not hurling stones. She’s telling the truth. The Bible says it is an abomination. Lying is too. Just cool your jets. There’s nothing to be upset about.

          I’d like to remind you that you are a sinner too. Also, not telling someone to go to church because they’ll ruin the service? Real mature there, Shepherd of the Flock. You’re acting like a five year-old. Relax.

        2. Julie2 years ago

          “Pastor” Steve. Paul said, “May we sin so that grace may abound? May it never be!” The BIBLE is the judgment. It is the homosexual action that is the sin. In the same way that if my neighbor’s husband is attractive to me, that is a feeling, but if I act on that feeling, it is now a sin. Or would you tell your “flock” not to judge me? Please, if you are indeed a pastor, read your Bible. Pastors who mislead their flocks are in for a harsh judgment. Don’t be one of them.

        3. Dylan Landon2 years ago

          But Pastor Steve, she is right, its not right for people to be gay or lesbian, and if you really are a pastor, its not right that you are accepting this, you should be one of the leaders to stand against this, its not right, and the fact that you are okay with this shows there is obviously something wrong.

      2. Anonymous1 year ago

        1 Timothy 2:12

  10. bseay2 years ago

    My family is in the “two married parents, one or both remarried” bucket because I was previously married — a marriage that ended without children. My previous marriage has had — and will not have– any effect on my children, so I’m bewildered that my family is put in your “negative” bucket”. I’d call it “bad research methodology”, but it’s not even that — it’s just bad segmentation strategy, which puts your whole “study” (which I’d otherwise support) as poorly thought out.

  11. Siddy2 years ago

    I am curious about how these stats differ for different ethnic and socioeconomic groups in the U.S. I am East Indian, and only one of my indian-American friends out of hundreds has a divorced parent. And no, they are not in forced marriages or anything like that. On the other hand, my brother has almost all black friends and literally only one of them has a dad at home. He is Haitian though, not typical African American.

  12. DB3 years ago

    Widespread divorce and family breakdown, single motherhood, increased drug use, gun violence and urban decay, all products of the 1960’s hippie movements and cultural revolution. The only positive things to come out of the 1960’s has been greater tolerance for gays and minorities, as well as greater equality for women, otherwise the social changes that that decade brought has been an unmitigated disaster for America and likely the west in general. I fear that until society really reevaluates the impact of the extreme individualism and sexual revolution and drug use of the 1960’s and tries to undo some of the damage that that decade wrought we’ll continue to decline until America is no better than a third world country.

    1. MG2 years ago

      The usual social conservative tripe which isn’t based on any factual basis. It was the legalization of no-fault divorce starting in CA in ’69 (and quickly adopted conservative and liberal alike in the 70s) and the widespread adoption of the birth control pill.

      Unless social conservatives agree to get rid of no-fault divorces and ban the birth control pill, the ‘genie is out of the bottle.’

  13. Polly3 years ago

    The traditional family is not an anomaly…it is God’s design for marriage. His moral laws apply to ALL people at ALL times. Please don’t let anyone mislead you to think that the traditional family is just some Leave it to Beaver fantasy that isn’t relevant to today’s society. It is the ONLY right way to have a family, in God’s eyes.

    1. David Hill2 years ago

      Lol, what about mostly Muslim cultures? Isolated tribal communities? God is dying, and so is the “traditional” family. All you need is one or two loving parents to raise you with good morals, NOT the bible’s morals.

      1. Paul R2 years ago

        And where do you think “good” morals should come from? You? I hope not.

        1. Anonymous2 years ago

          Good morals come from the Bible alone, which alone the truth resides in; God is not dead, He is more alive than any of us can ever be, we just need to accept Him and believe in Him; I pray He will lead us all and guide us all in all of our lives and our families.

        2. Kleiva2 years ago


        3. Sean Renaud2 years ago

          They most definitely come from people. There is no place else for them to come from. And no even the Bible had plenty of dudes with multiple wives. This “traditional” family is only a few centuries old and clearly doesn’t seem to have been planned by the imaginary sky bully but go on believing that nonsense if you like.

          1. Anonymous1 year ago

            You apparently have not read the Bible very much her well you’re on the people who Socrates talks about. If you really read the Bible all oh yes there is multiple wives God speaks against it. All research proves that traditional marriage produces healthier children

    2. victoria2 years ago

      what the hell how could you say that any family is the right way all you need is for someone to love you and tech you the difference between right and wrong.

      1. Sgt. Jerry Rediger2 years ago

        And where does that foundation of right and wrong come from?? Oh, I know! The same God Who designed marriage to be between one man and one woman, and ordained they raise children only within that context!

  14. Anonymous3 years ago

    Good job feminists!

  15. Earthy3 years ago

    Much more prevenlent? Jumping from 4% to 4% to 5% does not seem to be a very big change.

  16. TM3 years ago

    Looking at the chart you provided, it seems that there’s been no meaningful change in the proportion of families with at least one remarried parent or the proportion of no-parent families since 1960; the dramatic change seems to be the shift from two first-marriage parents to all the permutations of “single” parenthood. Am I missing something?

    1. Gretchen Livingston3 years ago

      Yep you’re right–the share of kids living with remarried parents has been remarkably stable. Most of the change in the living arrangements of kids has resulted from the increase in kids living with single parents.

  17. Tamika3 years ago

    Really pew research, you should not be able to use the research with statements like this, “Because of concerns about the quality of the new 2013 ACS data on same-sex marriage, we do not separate out the very small number of children whose parents are identified as in this type of union, but instead fold them into this “single parent” category, as well.”

  18. Jen H.3 years ago

    Nobody in my family reflects the fears of some of these commenters–godless, amoral, parentless, public-trough-feeding, society-wreckers. And everybody in my family loves *family* just as much as the Cleavers or the Traditionals or whoever without *looking* anything like them. Nothing can make people stop loving each other or stop valuing family. Life happens. It’s messy. It doesn’t really matter what shape a family is. I guess mine is at least 6th or 7th generation “blended non-traditional”. My great-great-grandma was widowed very young. She was poor and was capable of caring only for her infant on her own, so she sent my toddler great-grandma to be raised by relatives. This was in Italy, and my great-grandma grew up and married, but raised her kids mostly alone while her husband made more than one years-long, grueling, life-changing trips to America, in preparation to bring the family over. Shortly after they reunited here, he died. My great-grandma continued to raise the 4 kids, including twins, alone, taking in boarders for more income. One of her children became pregnant at age 14 by a boarder (himself without parents and about the same age). They married (so young!) and had 2 more kids before he died in a mining accident. Barely out of her teens, his widow remarried and had two more kids. Her twin sister was my grandma. She married my grandpa (whose dad had arrived in America at age 5, with 7 older brothers and no parents, and whose mom had been sent over from Sicily as a teen, along with her sister, as brides for my grandpa and one of his brothers). They had my mom, who didn’t meet her dad until she was three because he had shipped off to WWII 6 months before she was born. The war changed things, though; they divorced but remained close. She raised my mom with his co-parenting help. He remarried and had another child, who was still a kid when he passed of heart failure. My mom married my dad, who came from a “Beaver Cleaver” family, but…even his dad had been briefly married to and divorced from someone else before he met the woman he had kids and spent his life with, so in the table above, he too would not qualify as traditional. My folks married years before I was born, but divorced in the ’80s like so many other couples. Now I have step siblings and a half sibling. I have my own school-aged child, too, whose dad and I by choice did not marry, but were always together in one home with our child. But he passed away really young–at 41. I subsequently met a wonderful man who now lives with me and my kid. Life happens.

    1. Phoebe2 years ago

      Actual life is so much more than any categorization can embrace. Thank you for this wonderful sharing of real life’s flexibility and relevance! Precious and valuable, that’s who and what you are.

  19. Robin3 years ago

    How does this compare with other countries? Canada, the UK, Germany, France?

  20. a.d.nicholson3 years ago

    What we thought of as normal…the traditional family life style for those of born in the ’30’s and ’40’s ceased to exist along with rotary dial phones, refrigerators with ice trays, the A&P, running boards on car and TV antennas on the rooftops, all known as “the good ole days”.
    We considered that lifestyle as stable and wholesome. Boy, were we naive.

  21. Gene Antuna3 years ago

    What would be most interesting to me is a study to determine what are the main causes of these changes. I am sure there are economics and social issues that drive these dramatic changes. What are they? What drives them? On the one hand we have all the motives driving us away from history and precedence and endorsing things that in the past have been questionable: same sex marriage, gay support, abortion tolerance and others. We also have a government that provides you more food stamps the more kids you have, whether you are married or not. Maybe global warming is causing the change, maybe tablets and iphones. Go to work pew…. tell me why are these changes happening and how can we stop them. That is if we assume that kids with no parents is anything good for our society. Right?

    1. Gary Thomas3 years ago

      You can find the answers in the December 1956 issue of Life magazine, “The American Woman, her achievements and troubles”

    2. Siddy2 years ago

      Most American girls are, by the standards of most cultures, promiscuous. It is not their fault. They are from a culture where their parents expect them to date in high school, but are horrified if they want to get married at that age. Even a woman who is 23/24 is chastised for getting married too young. So what happens is girls have sex with numerous men in their prime fertile years (16-25). Since there is so much easy sex, it is very difficult for men to give this option up for marriage. At best, they might live in with their gf, but not marry her. This ensures steady sex, and when the girl is 29/30 and her prospects have diminished considerably, he can then easily go out with someone younger. In some cases, the guy might be goaded into marriage, but this arrangement is likely to end in divorce. We think the old fashioned way of courtship and marriage is bad for women, but is it really? I find that much preferable to the current situation, where girls give the youthful years of their lives and emotions to guys who then kick them to the curb.

      1. Dee2 years ago

        So the problem is acutally the men then? Women never stopped wanting to be in a committed relationship. Maybe the men need to learn to be more chaste?

  22. Al Devault3 years ago

    As we “progress” into a more socialistic society there are some basic truths that must be addressed. Socialism requires that there be no higher power than the “state” which sees to the needs of its citizens. Therefore parental guidance is a hindrance to progress as is the notion of a power greater than the state, i.e., God.
    Psychologist and psychiatrists have destroyed the concept of a conscience by stressing self esteem and the idea that “if it feels good it’s not wrong!” The fundamental basis for religion, the Golden Rule, has been relegated to the trash can.
    Unless we can restore the concept of a nuclear family as the norm, this great experiment in self rule will disappear. That’s not the warning of a bible-banging zealot, it is a statement of fact. Our Founding Fathers understood this basic truth and built it into the fabric of our system. Creeping socialism, fostered by the self-centered intellectual academics are bent upon destroying it for their own gain.

    1. Sally Baker McCarty3 years ago

      You couldn’t be more wrong. Read the article. The presence of the so-called “traditional” family has waned as government has become less dominant. Their heydays were in the thirties, forties,and fifties when taxes were highest and more federal programs — CCC, Works Progress, etc. were in place to bring our economy back from the great depression and World War II.

      Our DIVORCED president Reagan started moving us away from government support and, if you look at the chart, that’s when things started getting worse. You don’t really seem to know what socialism is, yet you throw the term around like you do.

      1. bonnie3 years ago

        Get real!! Families are changing – not for the better–from govt interference and dependence!! More children equal more govt money!!

    2. Nicole2 years ago

      Interesting you mentioned the ‘founding fathers’ when Benjamin Franklin had a bastard child with a French woman and Thomas Jefferson was raping his slaves. Right.. this is the Godly values you’re preaching.
      I do agree with the logic that people have become selfish to the point they do not comprehend the impact divorces and broken families have on children. I do NOT disagree with social welfare but I do disagree with permitting men to skip out on their children. If men were jailed for not taking care of their children watch how quickly condom use would sky rocket.
      Women who have children because they just feel like it are extremely selfish if they do not have stability and resources. The politically correctness needs to stop. If you choose to have children make damn sure you’re prepared to remain miserable with a willing partner who will go to work and help you care for those kids in every way not just monetary. Same goes for men.
      But spare the psycho babble about the founding fathers being so ‘Godly’

      1. Julie2 years ago

        There is no sound evidence for the slander of Jefferson. Public school?

  23. James3 years ago

    I would love to know what the stats from 1910 would look like. To hear my father (born in 1908) tell it, far more people didn’t live in intact households in 1915 than in 1970.

    For one thing, no antibiotics or chemotherapy. People who got pneumonia, tuberculosis or breast cancer just died, so it was very common for a widowed father or mother to be raising their children with or without the help of their parents.

    Secondly, people who were in bad financial straits boarded one or more kids with relatives or even trusted neighbors. My father had an unemployed neighbor whose wife ran away and left him with their daughter, for some reason, and the man asked my grandparents to raise her until he got a good job elsewhere in the country and was on his feet. That lasted a couple of years.

    I would bet fewer children grew up in “traditional families” in the 1850s or early 1900s than in the 1960s.

    1. Earthy3 years ago

      Very well put. In Colonial ( Founding Fathers) days people died age 35 so remarriage and foster children was the norm.

  24. JFE3 years ago

    Can we change the terminology from “traditional” family to “post-war” family or “boomer” family? “Traditional” sounds like the family structure has been the same for eons and eons that only happen to start changing around 1970. Certainly statisticians at Pew should be using more accurate terms.

    1. Gretchen Livingston3 years ago

      Yes in fact the ‘Leave it to Beaver’ style family of the 1950s and early 1960s was actually an anomaly in many ways, but because people so often use the term ‘traditional’ as a shorthand way of describing this 1950s-era family structure, I used the term myself, albeit in quotes.

      1. Sally Baker McCarty3 years ago

        True. There is really no one model of the “traditional family.” Especially, given the fact that 40-50% of those “Father Knows Best” family marriages end in divorce.

    2. Earthy3 years ago

      Here here, very well put. Launguage has such an effect on our thinking. The studies help us to see what is at this point happening, not what’s traditional. In my case divorcing to be single ment a safer household, and I am not alone. The stats are what they are and to push them to fit a TV fantasy might be rude, pushy and in many cases dangerous to children.

    3. William3 years ago

      So 500-5000 years doesn’t make it traditional?

  25. Rob the Quiet3 years ago

    However we wish to spin this, the US Census data spanning the last 70 years have been potentially skewed by collection methods, data architecture, and geographical boundary changes, so even at the aggregate level I would hesitate to draw any meaningful conclusions as presented here by Pew, not without giving deserved credit to the researchers for controlling for such effects. Taking a more systemic viewpoint, however, one might consider the state of marriage within the constellations of religion, taxation, and growing acceptance of gender classes, alongside public perception as shaped by media and government policy. As Gary has tagged “the realities of life” as a negative, I would propose in turn that a society in touch with the “positive reality” of a climate of universal respect would do a better job of supporting children through education, healthcare and social equity.

    1. Earthy3 years ago

      “positive reality” of a climate of universal respect would do a better job of supporting children through education, healthcare and social equity. LOVE this!

    2. Julie2 years ago

      Except that statistics do not bear this out. However, if you want life to be more equitable, I’ll send you my PayPal address and you can share some of your wealth.

  26. Alison Stewart3 years ago

    The ‘traditional’ family is hardly traditional at all. As an avid family history hunter, I have discovered (within my own family at least) families which have one set of parents are very few and far between, and generally only occur post WW2 and before 1980 – just about one generational span. The difference between today’s ‘non traditional’ families and those of yesteryear, is that today’s families have been ‘broken’ by choice rather than death. I have one fellow in my family tree who married three times, resulting in three sets of children with the three different women (his third and final wife was half his age). The reason behind the multiple marriages? Death in child birth. Today’s ‘non-traditional families’ may not have parents who live together – but at least (for the most part) they are still alive!

    1. JFE3 years ago

      Great point Allison! I just made a comment that what Pew is really discussing here is the “post-war” family, and not some static “traditional” family that magically stayed intact throughout history until sometime in the 1970s.

    2. terry H3 years ago

      I am curious about your conclusion. What extensive document research have you done on the subject? What are your Genealogy or History credentials that help to make your position credible? What sources did you use?
      Records that would show your position to be incorrect include:
      1.U.S census records from 1790 to 1940. Records after 1940 are sealed.
      These records show an overwhelming evidence of two parent families. While there are errors in the Census they tend to be spelling errors.
      2. Church records also reflect two parent families.
      3. Most counties had at least two county histories. Both will contain biographical sketches of some (but not all ) residents. These records also reflect traditional family structure.
      4. Other records that also will give you information on family structure include:Probate records, Immigration records, Newspaper records, Death records, marriage records, City Directories (directories started in the 1790’s and up to the present) Directories exist for most every town and city in the United States

      My background:
      Historian M.A. University of New York
      Professional Genealogist since 1970
      Have taught History and Genealogy at the college level since 1988

    3. David3 years ago

      What makes a traditional family is more than that; its that everybody knows their rol in this world and have trust in the stability and loyalty of marriage.

  27. Illidan Stormragge3 years ago

    In my case it’s hard to find any decent long-term partners. People are just too different from each other today. Back in the day, people were much more similar to each other in looks, background, and views. Now everyone is too different. It’s a challenge just looking for someone you can imagine raising children with. Then again it depends on which part of the country you are born but I am talking mainly about city-life.

  28. Buck Wheaton3 years ago

    “Young men who grow up in homes without fathers are twice as likely to end up in jail as those who come from traditional two-parent families…those boys whose fathers were absent from the household had double the odds of being incarcerated — even when other factors such as race, income, parent education and urban residence were held constant.” (Cynthia Harper of the University of Pennsylvania and Sara S. McLanahan of Princeton University cited in “Father Absence and Youth Incarceration.” Journal of Research on Adolescence 14 (September 2004): 369-397.)

  29. Eddie3 years ago

    Wonder why the USA is so screwed up these days? Here is the answer. As the family goes so goes society. Too bad. USA RIP.

  30. Itay Banner3 years ago

    Very interesting analysis. The major shift is between traditional marriage towards single parenthood, it seems. But Is this single parenthood a result of divorce or of people intentionally opting to have a child “on their own”? Do widowers remarry more or less during the years? Is there any data on that?

    1. Gretchen Livingston3 years ago

      The share of ever-married people who divorce has risen dramatically, but so has the share of babies born outside of marriage, so both factors have likely contributed to the increase in single parenthood. Widowers are typically less likely to remarry than people who get divorced.

  31. Gary3 years ago

    As kids, it can be very challenging when there is instability in the family. Kids can struggle in school in their drive and concentration, and even turn to drugs and other habits to escape the realities of life. Along with global competition for jobs, it is becoming much more difficult to make the income to become a home owner, pay for healthcare, education, and with America’s debt piling up, we will have to work together as Americans to come up with better non-partisan solutions.

    1. Dave Hahn3 years ago

      This was forecasted to happen a long time ago. Actually in 1968 July 25th. I remember that date because it is one day before I was born. Paul VI wrote a letter called Humanae Vitae. If you look back at what he wrote you can see how prophetic he was. The answer to these problems and the many other problems we face in our world is to understand the sacredness behind human sexuality. I know nobody wants anybody to go into anybody else’s bedroom. I don’t either that is an invasion of privacy. However if we desire to have a peaceful happy world it all hinges on human sexuality. If we get that right we get the rest right. Think of it our sexuality is the most awesome expression of love and we become co-creators with God. When we use our sexuality as a means for our self gratification rather than for what God intended it to be it throws love off and it throws the whole meaning and purpose of procreation off as well. Getting those two things wrong messes everything up. Getting those two things right puts us on the track for happiness. True happiness because it reveals authentic love.

      1. Earthy3 years ago


    2. Earhty3 years ago

      Stability, good point. It is the stability that benifits the children and loving stability can and does come in a wide variety of combinations. Two heterosexual, biological parents is NOT a garentee of stability. There is a great deal of work we can do to help people honor each other so to live harmoniously.

  32. B.F.3 years ago

    And this is the reason that the United States is in moral decline. As the traditional family goes, so goes the morality of this country.

    1. Sally Baker McCarty3 years ago

      You can’t consider traditional families to be “stable” when 40-50% of first marriages — and 60% of second marriages — end in divorce. So, there really are no traditional families to speak of — and haven’t been since the ’40’s.

    2. Earhty3 years ago

      Many “traditional “families are disrespectful of women, dishonoring and abusive. Children and spouses die behind closed doors and I am not in favor of that.

  33. George Dreckmann3 years ago

    I would love to see a break down along racial lines if possible. So much is made about single parent families in the African American community but I am guessing that the numbers will be fairly high in the white community as well.

    1. mplo2 years ago

      There are a lot of single-parent household families in poor white communities, as well. South Boston and Charlestown are good examples of such communities, where there’s a high percentage of extreme poverty, drug addiction, crime and incarceration and unemployment (especially among young males), and high percentages of dysfunctional and/or busted-up families, especially in the housing projects in those two communities.

    2. Julie2 years ago… Here you go. Broken down by race.

  34. Kat3 years ago

    Can you explain why you folded children from same-sex marriages into the single parent category?

    1. Gretchen Livingston3 years ago

      Hi Kat, my preference would have been to include kids in same-sex marriages in a distinct category, but there is concern that same-sex married couples are not being accurately identified in the American Community Survey, which is the data source I used. I opted instead to include the very small number of kids who appear to have same-sex married parents in the ‘single’ category which also includes children who are living with two unmarried, cohabiting parents.
      If you want to read more about the data issues that have arisen in regards to identifying same-sex couples, check out this link:, or the work of Gary Gates.

      1. Lotte3 years ago

        Personally I would think that separating out “unmarried cohabiting parents” (whether gay or straight) would be useful.

        There’s a strong focus in the US on marriage, whereas data from Europe shows that it’s very possible to have a long-term relationship, in which kids are being raised, outside of marriage.

        I think in such relationships, you have two parents that share responsibilities, which is quite different from having only on parent, so it’d be useful not to sweep them under a single-parent category.

        1. Gretchen Livingston3 years ago

          Yes cohabiting parents are certainly different than single parents without a partner in the household. Estimates suggest that about 5% of children are living in these types of arrangements. In the U.S. now, cohabitation is not as stable or as institutionalized as it is in Europe, though it will be interesting to see if that changes with time, if it continues to become more prevalent.

      2. Marisol Fuentes3 years ago

        There were several ways you could have handled this without denigrating lesbian and gay families. If you lump LGB married families with a second group consisting of single parent families and yet another group consisting of cohabiting, unmarried families, the resulting group is not accurately described as “Single Parent Family.” Since such a label is false and misleading – not to mention appallingly disrespectful to married same-sex couples – you don’t use that label. You call it something else. Like “Other” or “Various” or anything else that is both accurate and respectful. If you tried really hard, you could probably come up with something better than what you did, which is both inaccurate and disrespectful.

        Further, it is unclear why “concerns” about the ACS data warrant their complete disregard. If you conclude the data are false, say so and say why. If you haven’t concluded that the ACS data are false, then why are you disregarding them? Why not run the numbers both ways (i.e., breaking out LGB families and folding them into an “Other” category)?

    2. Jason3 years ago

      I think they did. That data wasn’t available in earlier years, so there’d be no comparison.

    3. Jeff3 years ago

      They do that because of sample size and the margin of error. If there is too few data points because your asking too specific of a question, you keep getting a larger margin of error while also receiving a smaller estimate.
      Hypothetically, if you can ask such a specific question, that you can have a larger margin of error than an actual estimate.

  35. Darnell Shelton3 years ago

    I really love the old shows, Like, Leaver it to Beaver. The Andy Griff show, and so on like family base shows. I would love to see more LOVE and happiness, and togetherness type shows. All the shooting and killing has to STOP somewhere. People do what they see on T.V, We have to stared somewhere in order to STOP, somewhere (the killings).

    1. Paul J.3 years ago

      Darnell: Not to be a kill joy but as far as “old” TV family shows go you forgot to list: The Rifleman, Have Gun Will Travel, Bonanza and Gunsmoke to name just a small percentage. Shows that in more than a few instances ended “differences” via physical violence” at best with a fist and at worst with guns.

    2. Earthy3 years ago

      Yes, I was watching a lovely show called Touch and many cultures were seen and connections to love and caring were made. Then as time went on the episodes added killings, etc. So sad.