Social Support Networks Trump Number of Parents. (Brief Reports: Development and the Life Course)

By Lang, Susan S. | Human Ecology, December 2002 | Go to article overview

Social Support Networks Trump Number of Parents. (Brief Reports: Development and the Life Course)


Lang, Susan S., Human Ecology


Public policies promoting marriage may not benefit all children, Cornell social policy expert finds.

OVERCOMING THE DRAWBACKS of growing up with a single parent, African-American children do as well, both academically and socially, as blacks in two-parent homes, a study by Cornell University and University of Utah researchers indicates. Research has shown that the opposite is true for white children, who seem to fare better when they live in married-couple homes. The new study finds that black children in single-parent households do just as well as they would in two-parent homes in terms of math scores and delinquency problems.

"These race differences may reflect the nature of the social support networks available to single parents in the African-American community, which, in turn, could help relieve parental stress and economic strain and improve mental health," says Cornell's Rachel Dunifon, an assistant professor of policy analysis and management.

The results of the study, she says, are particularly relevant in light of welfare reform legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and pending in the Senate, which would allocate $200 million a year to promote marriages.

"Whereas marriage is better for Caucasian children, we find that the math scores and delinquency measures of African-American children in single-parent homes are not significantly different than for black kids who live with married parents," says Dunifon. …

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