- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Americans have an “idealized” view of family not reflected in their daily lives, according to a “Faith and Family in America” poll released yesterday.

Although three-quarters of the 1,130 adults polled this summer agreed that “God’s plan for marriage is one man, one woman, for life,” the amount of adults who are single — 50 percent — is at a record high, according to the survey.

According to the poll, which has a margin of error of 3 percentage points, only 22 percent of the populace say divorce is a sin, and 49 percent say cohabitation is acceptable.

Even the very definition of “family” is up for grabs, according to the poll, which said only one-third of Americans define a family as having two parents and children. Fifty-five percent agreed with the statement “Love is what makes a family, and it doesn’t matter if parents are gay or straight, married or single.”

“Nearly everyone supports an idealized plan for a family,” said Anna Greenberg, vice president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc., which conducted the poll for the PBS show Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.

But Americans’ “romanticized vision” of the family, she said, is not squaring with a reality that shows only 24 percent of all adults are married parents with children at home.

One of the biggest purveyors of this ideal is the church, “which with other institutions has been fairly successful in maintaining this idea even though they can’t live it out,” said John Green, professor of political science and director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.

He and University of Virginia sociologist Brad Wilcox cited statistics showing divorces as being most common among black Protestants (53 percent of members who have ever married have divorced), the unchurched (53 percent) and evangelicals (42 percent). It is least common among Catholics (35 percent).

However, Mr. Wilcox said, the divorce rates drop by as much as 8 percentage points for people who attend religious services at least once a week.

Americans are becoming more unchurched, Mr. Wilcox said, with weekly attendance dropping from 41 percent of the populace in 1972 to 31 percent in 2002.

This is a result of shifting family demographics, he said, with there being fewer married couples with children, the group most likely to attend church.

Single adults especially have fled houses of worship, with only 15 percent of single men without children and 23 percent of childless single women saying they attend church, according to the survey.

White men had the lowest church attendance rates among singles, with 14 percent, while Hispanic and black women had the highest rates, respectively, polling at 31 percent and 32 percent.

The poll also showed a contradiction in attitudes toward women in the workplace, with 42 percent of evangelical Protestants saying a family suffers if the mother works full time. Yet, 48 percent of evangelicals conceded their family includes two adults working full time.

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