Praying for Children, Families, and All of Us

Pew Research Center on Family Structures Dec 2014

(Gretchen Livingston is a senior researcher focusing on fertility and family demographics at Pew Research Center.)

“Less than half (46%) of U.S. kids younger than 18 years of age are living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage. This is a marked change from 1960, when 73% of children fit this description, and 1980, when 61% did, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of recently-released American Community Survey (ACS) and Decennial Census data.

Less than half of U.S. kids today live in a ‘traditional’ family. Rapid changes in American family structure have altered the image of who’s gathering for the holidays. While the old “ideal” involved couples marrying young, then starting a family, and staying married till “death do they part”, the family has become more complex, and less “traditional”.

Americans are delaying marriage, and more may be foregoing the institution altogether. At the same time, the share of children born outside of marriage now stands at 41%, up from just 5% in 1960. While debate continues as to whether divorce rates have been rising or falling in recent decades, it’s clear that in the longer term, the share of people who have been previously married is rising, as is remarriage.

According to our analysis, today 15% of children are living with two parents who are in a remarriage. It is difficult to accurately identify step-children in the ACS data, so we don’t know for sure if these kids are from another union, or were born within the remarriage. However, data from another Census source — the 2013 Current Population Survey (CPS) — indicates that 6% of all children are living with a step-parent.

One of the largest shifts in family structure is this: 34% of children today are living with an unmarried parent—up from just 9% in 1960, and 19% in 1980. In most cases, these unmarried parents are single. However, a small share of all children—4%–are living with two cohabiting parents, according to CPS data. Because of concerns about the quality of the new 2013 ACS data on same-sex marriage, we do not separate out the very small number of children whose parents are identified as in this type of union, but instead fold them into this “single parent” category, as well.

The remaining 5% of children are not living with either parent. In most of these cases, they are living with a grandparent—a phenomenon that has become much more prevalent since the recent economic recession.”



There is an increasingly serious issue of family instability in America. Children are being affected in a variety of ways, and most are negative. Children in single parent households experience increased poverty, reduced graduation rates, increased food insecurity, and increased rates of other “adverse household hardship measures” like utility disconnects, phone disconnects, unmet medical and dental needs, food pantry utilization, lack of family transportation, etc. The poverty rate for children in single parent families is triple the rate for children in two parent families. In 2012, 42% of children in single parent families were poor, compared to 13% of children in two parent families.   Child poverty is linked to poor health and increased school dropout rates; to negative adult outcomes including joblessness; and to reduced economic output and stability. Over 70% of the families in homeless shelters in 2013 were single parent families.

The phrases “baby daddy” and “baby mama” are now common ways of referring to a “significant other” relationship and it’s not uncommon for a person to have several such relationships. I have known several women with 3 or 4 children with 2 to 4 baby daddies, none of whom have been married. Full blood siblings, half siblings, step siblings, and other unrelated children residing in a household give the old phrase “yours, mine, and ours” entirely new meaning.

We have significant challenges ministering to the needs of children and single parents today. Lynn Haven UMC has made a commitment to do just that, as well as to foster families who strive to fill a need that is at crisis levels in our county.

Pray for families. Pray especially for the future of children growing up in families and households that are regularly uprooted, unformed and reformed with mixes of biological and non-biological members. Pray for grandparents who are increasingly becoming the caregivers of such children when parents experience economic, legal, or other challenges. Pray for the case workers, the family members, the teachers, the church staff, and others who long to give these children more stable and hopeful futures.