THE RESTRUCTURE OF THE FAMILY
Consider these findings…
- Only a minority says the trends toward more cohabitation without marriage (43%), more unmarried couples raising children (43%), and more gay couples raising children (43%) are bad for society. Relatively few say any of these trends are good for society, but many say they make little difference.
- Marriage is no longer considered a prerequisite for parenthood. Over the past 50 years, the share of children born to unmarried mothers has risen dramatically—increasing eightfold from 5% in 1960 to 41% in 2008.
- This trend has contributed to the decrease in the share of children under age 18 living with two married parents – to 64% in 2008 from 87% in 1960.
- A large majority of mothers with children younger than 18 (71%) are now in the labor force. In 1975, fewer than half of all mothers were working. Even among mothers of very young children (younger than 3), 60% are in the labor force, up from 34% in 1975.
- Eight times as many children are born out of wedlock.
- Children in America are growing up in a much more diverse set of living arrangements than they did a half century ago. In 1960, nearly nine-in-ten children under age 18 resided with two married parents (87%); by 2008, that share had dropped to 64%.
- Children raised by gay and lesbian couples are seen as facing the most challenges: about half the public (51%) say they face “a lot” more challenges than other children, and an additional 28% say they face “a few” more challenges.
- Next on the list are children of divorce – 42% say they face a lot more challenges than other children – followed by children of single parents (38% say they face a lot more challenges), and children whose parents are living together but not married (16%). Solid majorities say that children in nearly all of these circumstances face at least a few more challenges than other children.
- For the most part, opinions about the challenges of children in non-traditional living arrangements do not vary significantly across demographic groups. However, people ages 65 and older are generally more inclined than younger people—especially those younger than 30—to say that children in certain circumstances face a lot more challenges than their peers.
- Among parents of young children, those who are married are more likely than those who are not married to say the obstacles children of divorced couples and of single parents face are far greater than those of their peers. Nearly half of married parents with children younger than 18 say children who grow up with divorced parents (47%) or single parents (48%) have a lot more challenges; about one-third of unmarried parents of young children say that is the case.
- Women account for 77% of unmarried parents living with children under the age of 18; 86% of parents who live with their minor children and have never been married and are not living with a partner are mothers, as are 78% of those who are divorced or separated.
- Divorced parents are especially likely to share custody of their young children; fewer than half (45%) say their children under the age of 18 live with them all of the time, while 35% say the children live with them part of the time, and 18% say their children don’t live in their household
- Women are twice as likely as men to have their young children living with them all of the time; more than eight-in-ten mothers of young children who are not married or who had children before they were married say that is the case (85%), compared with 42% of fathers. One-third of fathers who are not currently married or who had children before they were married say their children live with them some of the time, and a considerable percentage (23%) say their children don’t ever live in their household.
These shifts in families have implications for us as we minister to children.
- Children are not developing a proper view of marriage due to seeing and hearing distortions. It is essential that we be intentional in teaching and modeling God’s plan for marriage.
- Make sure you interview people before you allow them to begin serving with kids. You do not want a volunteer telling the children that it’s okay to not follow God’s plan for families. Last year, I was interviewing a lady who wanted to teach our kids at weekend services. As I interviewed her, it became apparent she did not hold a Biblical view of marriage. She finally said, “Marriage is just a piece of paper.” She was welcome to continue to attend adult services, but she did not get the teaching position.
- The ever-increasing percentage of children being raised by a single parent can affect the child’s balance of male/female influence growing up. This is especially true with boys. We must bring godly male figures into their lives. Things like a men’s mentoring program or having men lead boy’s small groups makes a big difference.
- Many children are affected by divorce. I counsel with many families whose children are angry, upset, and acting out at school because of their parent’s divorce. We must be there to offer support, encouragement, and counseling. Programs like Divorce Recovery for Kids can help children cope with the pain of divorce.
- Many children are unable to attend church as regularly as they’d like due to a join custody situation. Be sensitive to this as you prepare review questions, attendance contests, etc.
- As you can see in the stats, each new generation is more accepting of new family structures/philosophies that do not line up with God’s Word. We must be faithful and intentional in teaching the next generation God’s truths and principles.
What a great day we live in to minister to families. God’s power transcends eras and percentages. As we reach out under His guidance, families and kids will be radically transformed…even in a postmodern era.