The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

More for Moynihan


Bryce J. Christensen and Robert W. Patterson


Somewhere the shade of Patrick Moynihan must be saying, “I told you so!” Moynihan was pilloried as a racist troglodyte when he warned in 1965 that the disintegration of black family life was a portent of catastrophe. But the evidence continues to mount showing that Moynihan’s warning was fully warranted.

The latest evidence comes from researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Scrutinizing data collected from 417 African-American adolescent girls, the researchers detect the positive effects of good mothering: “A positive relationship with mother,” these researchers report, “was associated with less risky sexual behavior, substance use, and problem behaviors.”

But the presence of a father counts, too. The researchers conclude, “Residing in a 2-parent household was related to less engagement in substance use [p0.05] and problem behaviors [p0.01].” Further statistical analysis reveals “a linear trend between residing in a 2-parent household and increased odds of being sexually inactive [p0.10].” Earlier generations of researchers might have been willing to use morally substantive adjectives such as “continent” or “chaste” rather than the politically sanitized phrase “sexually inactive.”

The North Carolina scholars view their findings as proof that “social relationships and networks [particularly those supplied by an intact family] can buffer the ill effects of living in neighborhoods with less available familial and peer support and community resources.” But the late senator from New York could have explained that many of the positive social relationships that young African Americans most need will only become available when more African-American mothers wear a wedding band.

(Shauna M. Cooper and Barbara Guthrie, “Ecological Influences on Health-promoting and Health-compromising Behaviors: A Socially Embedded Approach to Urban African American Girls’ Health,” Family and Community Health 30.1 [2007]: 29–41.)

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