- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

For teens who are 17 years old, there are only 10 states in the country where they are likely to still be living with their own married mother and father, says a new report.

Utah, Minnesota, Nebraska and New Jersey lead the nation in “intact” families, said Patrick F. Fagan, author of the fourth annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection.

But in 40 states and the District of Columbia, 17-year-olds are highly likely to have experienced the breakup of their biological parents.

This means 54 percent of U.S. teens are growing up in homes without at least one of their own parents.

This is a national crisis, Mr. Fagan, senior fellow and director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI), told a Wednesday event at the Family Research Council.

If most children are growing up in families where their own parents have rejected each other, this exacerbates issues such as crime, poverty, education and health, he said. That’s because “we all need to belong … it’s the deepest human need.”

Solutions to “family rejection” include marriage-encouraging social and government programs, as well as community and neighborhood mentoring and outreach, said Jennifer A. Marshall, director of domestic policy studies at the Heritage Foundation.

MARRI tracks family structure and religious worship and their impacts on school performance, social behaviors, income and use of government welfare programs. Its research has found that outcomes go in the right direction when people are in intact, married families — especially those that worship weekly.

“America is as strong as its lasting marriages and as weak as its broken ones,” concluded Mr. Fagan.

The new index, released Wednesday, found 10 states with 51 percent or higher levels of “family belonging,” defined as children aged 15 to 17 who are living with their married, biological mother and father.

Utah ranked the highest, with 57 percent of “belonging” families, followed in order by Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut and Idaho.

The lowest ranking states — those with 40 percent or fewer teens in intact families — are Florida, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, New Mexico, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The District ranked the lowest in the index, with 17 percent of teens living with their own married biological parents.

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