Why Kids With Married Parents Have Higher Self-Esteem

How much does marriage matter?

parents and toddler Sabrina Bracher / Shutterstock

Here's what I've learned: that there are studies about almost everything and the studies can be manipulated to reflect the results.

Therefore, when research from the British think-tank, the Marriage Foundation, said that teenagers with married parents have higher self-esteem on average than their counterparts from other types of family, it's pretty obvious that the findings have been somewhat skewed to meet the agenda of this organization.


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In fact, they say on their website, "We champion long-lasting, stable relationships within marriage. There are other organizations which support couple relationships of all types; valuable work, but not our mission."


In other words, they're not very flexible in what they see as legitimate relationships. Children can be raised by single parents and turn out just as fine as children with married parents. It's about the love, not the number of parents.

In an interview with The Daily Mail, the Marriage Foundation's chairman, former High Court judge, Sir Paul Coleridge said, "Being married not only influences the chances of families staying together. It also influences the well-being of their children. It is not moralistic or judgmental to say marriage works best for families. It is a statement of fact." 

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Harry Benson, the Marriage Foundation's research director, and Dr. Spencer James of Brigham Young University analyzed data relating to more than 3,800 children, ages 11 to 16.


The participants were asked a series of questions used to determine their self-esteem and levels of acceptance. The responses were converted into a score and looked at with regard to their family situation.

The researchers found that while boys scored higher than girls overall, both sexes were comparatively better if their parents were married than if they were just living together.

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A boy with married parents was typically ranked in the 57th percentile for self-esteem (well above average) compared with only the 51st percentile for boys in a cohabitating family. Girls were respectively in the 43rd or 38th percentile depending on whether their parents were married or living together.


Coleridge said, "Marriage matters because it is the most important predictor of a child's future life chances. Not only is a married couple more likely to save their child from undergoing the trauma of family breakdown, we now have evidence that parent's public declaration of commitment to each other significantly alters a child's self-perception and self-esteem."

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So an organization that advocates marriage at all costs says that married parents are better for children. Shocking. I would say that these results are biased. A marriage with two kids isn't always the best option.


Christine Schoenwald has had pieces in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Purple Clover, YourTango, XoJane, and Bustle.