FamilyFacts.org Briefs give at-a-glance insight into important trends related to family and society from social science research.
Breaking the Cycle of Welfare Dependence
- The success of the 1996 welfare reform, also known as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Rec-onciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), is widely acknowledged and well documented. Significantly, Temporary As-sistance for Needy Families (TANF) ended the entitlement nature of the old welfare program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), which distributed cash to recipients without time limits and without requiring them to work or prepare for work in return.
- In addition to fixing the funding structure and including work requirements and time limits, the landmark legislation also addressed the primary causes of welfare dependence and child poverty in the U.S.: family breakdown and unwed childbearing.
- The immediate effects of welfare reform were striking.1 During the four decades before enactment of the 1996 reform, the welfare caseload never decreased significantly. By 1995, one in seven children was on AFDC, but within just a few years after TANF’s implementation, the caseload fell by half and employment rates and earnings among single mothers soared.2
- Child poverty rates declined significantly. Roughly 3 million fewer children lived in poverty in 2003 than in 1995, including 1.2 million fewer African American children—the lowest level of black child poverty in the nation’s history.3
More than Breadwinners: The Myriad Ways in Which Fathers Contribute to Family Well-Being
The accumulating social scientific evidence on fathers shows a multidimensional impact on family well-being, from wages to children’s school outcomes to family stability. In particular, findings suggest that a key factor is the father’s marital status. On average, parents and children tend to fare best when the father resides in the home and is married to the mother of his children.
Healthy Mothers, Healthy Families: How Mothers Are Crucial to the Success of the Family
Social science research consistently demonstrates the crucial role that the mother plays in the well-being of her children and family. Recent studies highlight how mothers' parenting, relationship status and stability, and own well-being are correlated with the welfare of their families.
The Effects of Day Care on the Social-Emotional Development of Children
The time children spend in day care is associated with negative effects in social development. More hours in day care during a child’s early years is associated with less social competence and cooperation, more problem behaviors, negative mood, aggression, and conflict. Negative effects of day care on social–emotional development persist throughout early childhood and adolescence. Day care is linked with poorer average outcomes when children spend more time in center care, enter day care at an earlier age, or are in lower-quality care. Maternal sensitivity is strongly linked to the effects of day care on children’s social development and is the most crucial predictor of children’s development, even when children spend long hours in day care.
Parents' Influence on Adolescents' Sexual Behavior
Research suggests that parents can strongly influence their teens’ sexual behavior. Parents’ marital status, their disapproval of and discussion with teens about the standards of behavior and the social and moral consequence of teen sexual activity as well as parental monitoring all appear to impact teens’ decisions to engage in sexual activity.
Religiosity and Charity/Volunteering
Religiosity is positively related to charitable giving and volunteerism. Individuals with higher levels of religiosity are more likely to engage in both organized volunteering and informal acts of compassion and, on average, give charitable donations more frequently and at higher levels.
Parental Involvement and Children's Well-Being
Youths who experience higher levels of parental involvement and a closer relationship with their parents are less likely to exhibit behavioral problems and to engage in risk behaviors. In addition, they tend to achieve better grades and higher levels of education and to experience better emotional health.
Family Environment and Children's Prospects for Marriage
Children from intact families are more likely to have positive attitudes toward marriage and higher expectations for their own marriages. In adulthood, they are less likely to form a high-risk marriage, to undergo divorce, or to cohabit, and they tend to enjoy a higher quality of marriage.
Religion and Family
Couples with higher levels of religiosity tend to invest more in their marriages, have a higher quality of marital life, a lower likelihood of divorce, and are less likely to be involved in incidents of domestic violence. More religious adolescents tend to have a higher expectation that they will be married and are more likely to disapprove of cohabitation and premarital sex.
Daycare and Children's Well-Being
Non-maternal care, the amount of time spent in day-care, and age of entry into daycare were associated with an increased likelihood of behavioral and socio-emotional problems, lower academic achievement, and a greater incidence of childhood diseases. Behavioral problems associated with earlier daycare continued through the middle-school years.
Family Structure and Teen Sex
Adolescents raised in intact families are less likely to engage in sexual activity, to be involved with an older sexual partner, or to become pregnant or give birth in their teens. They also tend to form more stable romantic relationships. Neighborhood characteristics are also associated with youths’ likelihood of being sexually active.
Family Structure and Children's Education
Children in intact families tend to have greater academic achievement and educational attainment and are less likely to exhibit behavioral problems in school. Their parents tend to be more involved in their school activities and to have higher expectations for them.
Family and Adolescent Well-being
Children in intact families tend to exhibit better emotional and psychological well-being and are less likely to exhibit behavioral problems such as school violence, juvenile delinquency and substance abuse. In addition, they tend to have higher grades and are less likely to be sexually active.
Religious Practice and Family Stability
Couples with higher levels of religiosity tend to enjoy greater marital satisfaction, fidelity, and stability with less likelihood of domestic violence. They also tend to have a higher quality of relationship with their children.
Children and Media: Parental Discretion Advised
Children who watch higher amounts of television are at greater risk for negative outcomes such as obesity and attention deficit. Also, greater exposure to sex and alcohol in the media is associated with a greater likelihood that teens will act out those behaviors.
Family Structure and Economic Well-Being
Individuals in married families generally experience greater economic well-being. This is true for men, women, and children. Not only do married families tend to earn more money but they also have greater savings and higher net-worth.
Religion and Health
Religious activity is associated with a variety of positive health outcomes for children, adults, and the elderly. Such health outcomes include lower risk of cancer and pulmonary dysfunction, as well as better psychological health and higher life satisfaction.
Reducing Teens' Risk and the Role of Religiosity
Religious teens are less likely to take part in risk behaviors. For example, they are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, be sexually active, or be delinquent.