You know, when they start saying knee-jerk stuff about how the problem is Inga Akins' parenting of Ja'eisha.
Tying such dire predictions of social decay to divorce and single motherhood seemed credible in the 1970s and 1980s. But a funny thing happened in the 1990s: Almost every negative social trend tracked by the census, the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Justice declined.From an op-ed by Stephanie Coontz in the LA Times: OurKids Are Not Doomed (via Alas, A Blog).
Teen birthrates fell by 30% between 1991 and 2002. The number of violent crimes in schools was halved between 1992 and 2002. Teen homicide rates dropped to their lowest level since 1966. Teen suicides decreased by 25%, and drug abuse, binge drinking and smoking all fell.
Yet the number of couples living together unmarried increased by more than 70% over the decade; the population at large increased by only 13% during this period. Gay and lesbian parenting became more common. The number of families headed by single mothers rose five times faster than the number of married-couple families.
Obviously, attributing the improvements of the 1990s to the continued increases in families headed by single moms is as absurd as blaming all the social ills of the 1980s on divorce.
Single parenthood does increase the risk that teens will get into trouble. But so do poverty, parental conflict, frequent school relocation, parental substance abuse and even an emotionally distant relationship with married parents.
Studies show that the majority of teens who exhibit serious behavior problems have five or more separate risk factors in their lives.