Last week, when the National Center for Health Statistics released the latest results from the National Survey of Family Growth, The Washington Post reported that one finding “may surprise those bewailing a permissive and eros-soaked popular culture: More than one-quarter of people interviewed in their late teens and early 20s had never had sex.” Many conservatives do rightly criticize our current “eros-soaked popular culture.” But those conservatives who follow The Heritage Foundation also know that abstinence has been on the rise for some time now and that stable family relationships have a strong positive impact on teen sexual behavior.
Too often today parents believe they are powerless to influence their children’s choices. But research shows that is just not true: Parent behavior strongly influences teen sexual behavior. Moreover, youth who remain abstinent do better academically and are more likely to attend and graduate from college than sexually active teens. Policymakers often talk about “family values” but rarely are they able to marshal the evidence that exists showing how important stable family relationships are to American civil society.
That is why The Heritage Foundation is launching a redesigned FamilyFacts.org filled with hundreds of charts, issue briefs, and reports demonstrating the effects that parental involvement and religious observance have on teen development, family stability, and academic achievement. Since our founding in 1973, The Heritage Foundation has sought “to build an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish.” The research at FamilyFacts.org documents how enduring family relationships, anchored by healthy marriages, are the foundation for everything else we try to accomplish.
Couples who are married have a higher average household income, more assets, and better health than many of their single or cohabitating counterparts. Conversely, families that are headed by unmarried females make up more than half of all families living in poverty. And paychecks are not the only reason two parents are better. Research shows that “improvements in child well-being that are associated with marriage persist even after adjusting for differences in family income.” With four of every 10 U.S. children now born outside of marriage and welfare spending skyrocketing—especially on single-parent households—policymakers and taxpayers can no longer afford to overlook the effects of family and marriage on civil society.
By understanding the wealth of research on the social and economic benefits of healthy marriage and stable family structure, policymakers can make informed decisions about the best ways to decrease federal spending, reduce the national deficit, and promote a flourishing society.
Co-authored by Sarah Torre.