I have been scrutinizing the research on single parents and their children for more than a decade. I’ve learned lots of things, but perhaps the most important one is this: all those predictions you hear about how the children of single parents are doomed are grossly exaggerated or just plain wrong.
Every time I learn about a new claim that getting married makes people happier or healthier or more connected or live longer (and all the rest), I go to the original research report to see what the findings really did say. The media — and sadly, many social scientists — routinely get it wrong. No, getting married does not cause you to become lastingly happier or healthier or better off in any way than if you stayed single (well, you do get more money because of all the laws and practices that benefit married people and discriminate against singles).
Here (below), you can find links to all my critiques of these studies. I’ll keep adding more as new claims hit the media that I need to debunk. I’ve also put together 2 books of my writings explaining why all those Marriage Wins claims are so wrong. Marriage vs. Single Life: How Science and the Media Got It So Wrong includes a chapter previously available only in an expensive edited volume, a new paper that is the most powerful and comprehensive explanation of what the research does and does not show about the implications of getting married, plus 39 other brief chapters (many from my blogs). Because I think that new powerful and comprehensive paper is so important, I have made it into a stand-alone book (together with an introduction) in The Science of Marriage: What We Know That Just Isn’t So. (Both are available both as paperbacks and as ebooks. You can read more about them here.)
Last January was when I first decided, with lots of input from my agent, on the theme of my new book project. It is about the many creative ways that we are living now that Americans are spending more years of their adult lives unmarried than married, and only about 20 percent of all households are comprised of mom, dad, and the kids. These are huge change from decades past. (See below for more on the theme of the book.)
In Singled Out, I devoted a chapter to debunking the myth that the children of single parents are doomed. I described various studies and showed how the results are exaggerated or misrepresented. I also reviewed studies inconsistent with the doom-and-gloom narrative; they, unfortunately, get little media attention.
New studies have been published since then, so I have continued to address the topic. There is also lots of panic around single parenting and some overwrought media stories and political proclamations. I’ve critiqued those, too.
Speaking to the Republican National Convention last night, Ann Romney exclaimed that she loved women. (Well, not that way.) I don’t think she realizes, though, that not all women are mothers. Either that or she thinks that the only women who count are the mothers.
“It’s the moms who always have to work a little harder, to make everything right,” she said.
“It’s the moms of this nation,” she added, “single, married, widowed – who really hold this country together.”
I love featuring voices other than mine here at “All Things Single (and More).” Although I read widely about single life, think critically, study the academic journals, and do my own original research, my perspective is limited by my own life experiences. So, even though I always appreciate hearing from people who share my point of view, I also greatly value those whose single lives have been very different.