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Chicagophile
  > > e-Bulletin: 02/08/02


LETTERS
Teens and intact families


Harris School assistant professors Thomas DeLeire and Ariel Kalil ("Citations," December/01) confirmed numerous other longitudinal studies by finding that children of divorced or never-married parents fare far worse on many social indicators compared with children from intact families. Yet the summary of their research notes they also found that "not all broken families are alike. Indeed, teenagers living with their single mother and at least one grandparent turn out at least as well and often better then teens in intact families."

Depending on what indicators are in question, it might be true that children raised by a mother and a grandparent (in most cases probably a grandmother) do at least as well as children in intact families. However, it is misleading to suggest that this family model is as stable for children. In an intact family, two adults with many years of life ahead of them have committed to raising their child to adulthood. A single mother-grandmother household is much different.

First, grandparents typically die far sooner than parents, often before a child is fully grown. Second, if the single mother decides to move in with her boyfriend or remarry, the child is again at risk. (Cohabitation holds many risks for children, and children in stepfamilies fare no better on most social indicators than children in single-parent families.) Finally, although many grandmothers rise to the task of raising their grandchildren with incredible commitment and skill, it is unfair to expect them to do so. They have already raised a generation. It is up to their children, who are now mothers and fathers, to raise the next.

Elizabeth Marquardt, AM'93, MDiv'99
Collingdale, Pennsylvania



  FEBRUARY 2002

  > > Volume 94, Number 3


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Liberal talk, realist thinking
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The winning punch line
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Physics for breakfast
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