- The Washington Times - Monday, April 15, 2002

Marriage is the only institution that protects mothers and children from domestic abuse and violent crime, a new report says.
The report, compiled by the Heritage Foundation, concludes that domestic abuse is twice as high among women who have never married than among those who have. Children of divorced or never-married mothers are six to 30 times more likely to suffer from serious child abuse than children raised by both biological parents who are married, the report says.
"Social science data clearly show that mothers and children are safer in a married family," said Patrick Fagan, a William H.G. Fitzgerald research fellow in Family and Culture Issues. "It's time for the government to adopt policies that reflect this knowledge and rebuild rather than undermine the institution of marriage."
The findings also support President Bush's plan to spend $300 million per year on efforts to rebuild marriage among the poor.
"In establishing programs to help those who need assistance, the question before Congress shouldn't simply be whether to fund the program, but how much its policies would improve the well-being of adults and children," said Kirk Johnson, a senior policy analyst at the foundation's Center for Data Analysis.
The report's findings are based on an analysis of the 1999 results of the National Crime Victimization Survey, which the Justice Department has conducted since 1973.
Highlights of the study:
Never-married women experience more domestic abuse than those who are married. Among those who have been married, the annual rate of domestic abuse is 14.7 per 1,000 mothers. For mothers who have never been married, it's 32.9 per 1,000.
Never-married mothers with children are more likely to be victims of violent crime than married women who have children. The report shows that never-married women suffer 147.8 violent crimes per 1,000 mothers each year, compared with 52.9 crimes per 1,000 among married mothers.
cChildren who live with their mother and a boyfriend who is not their father are 33 times more likely to be abused. The rate of abuse is six times higher in step-families, 14 times higher in the single-mother family and 20 times higher in cohabiting-biological parent families.
Groups such as the Family Research Council (FRC) and SmartMarriages.com agree with the foundation's findings.
"Marriage definitely protects women and children," said Diane Sollee, director of SmartMarriages.com, which is part of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education LLC, an independent organization that deals with the strengthening of marriage.
A long-term commitment like marriage offers more stability in the home than less-committed relationships, the groups say. Their idea is that commitment heads off violence, a product of instability.
"When people are married, they make an investment in each other's lives," said Jennifer Marshall, director of FRC's Family Studies Department. "When you're in a less-committed relationship, it can get volatile because these kinds of relationships don't carry the same commitment."

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