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The hidden half of domestic violence

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Marriage safest bet to prevent abuse

The Washington Times
April 15, 2002

Marriage safest bet to prevent abuse, Heritage data show
by Ellen Sorokin

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.

     * Children 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
agree with the foundation's findings.

"Marriage definitely protects women and children," said Diane Sollee,
director of, 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."

Copyright 2002 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.
Washington Times Home:
Related articles/websites:

Marriage: Next Step for Welfare Reform
by Patrick Fagan -- Heritage Foundation, 11 Apr 02

Marriage: The Safest Place for Women and Children
Link to:  | PDF(149k) |
by Fagan & Johnson -- Heritage Foundation, 10 Apr 02

HF on Welfare & Marriage:

The Heritage Foundation Home:


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