What Has a Larger Effect on Parenting: Economic Stability or Marriage?

By:Fertile Content
Updated:February 5, 2017

By Gabby Revel

According to a 2014 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, the amount of resources that are available to families has a much greater effect on family stability than the legal relationship between the parents of the children involved. In the U.S., “families have become increasingly diverse and complex in recent decades”. However, this diversity appears to have far less of an impact on the well-being of the family than factors such as reading to children, extracurricular activities, and school performances.

Families who live in poverty also experience a phenomenon known as “resource poverty”. These families may not have access to extra reading material for children, and may be unable to afford extracurricular activities. In addition, parents may be unable to afford to take the time off of work to attend events or spend additional time with their children. In contrast, children who have access to stable income, housing, and food are often the same children that can avoid “resource poverty”.

Good Parenting Practices

The Census Bureau asked parents, both married and unmarried, questions about how much they read to their children, how frequently their children watched television, and what activities their children had access to. They found that the positive parenting practices they were examining took place in families with married, unmarried, and single parents at very similar rates. However, children who lived in families that struggled with poverty and food insecurity had less access to these positive influences. Children who lived in poverty were also more likely to experience inconsistency and disruptions in the parental structure of the household.

The Effects of Economic Stability

Families with economic instability had more frequent instances of divorce. Parents were often low-income, had less education, and chose to have children at a young age. These factors dramatically altered the flow of their lives, limiting the opportunities that their children had access to. Families with larger overall incomes tended to be more stable, eat more meals together, and provide their children with access to the learning experiences that they needed.

The purpose of the study was to assimilate data, not to pass judgement. However, when the statistics are carefully reviewed, it becomes rather obvious that in America, income matters far more to the success of a child than the number of parents present and the legal relationship between them. Readers may want to consider, however, that the number of wage-earning adults in a family often contributes greatly to the income that family is capable of producing. This fact makes these two elements inextricably linked.

In short, children from families with one wage earner that earns a steady income well above the poverty line are as successful as families that have two parents contributing to earn that income. The total income matters far more to development than the total number of adults present in the home and the relationship between those adults.