Where’s the Glue? Policies to Close the Family Gap

When a childless couple divorces, how much should we care? If they are friends, we might feel sad for the individuals involved. The end of a romantic relationship almost always means some pain and some loss imposed on others. Equally, we might be relieved or happy that they are able to move on, perhaps to a happier relationship. Adult decisions affecting adults are one thing; it is quite another when children are affected. Hence the concern with family breakdown, rather than simply divorce or separation, especially among policymakers.

When addressing these issues, it is important to be as clear and specific as possible about the nature of the problem – or problems – being addressed. The “family divide” may refer to differences in rates of births outside marriage, rates of marriage, duration of marriage, rates of single parenthood, family stability, family structure, rates of divorce, parental engagement after divorce, parenting styles and investments, just to mention just a few. The gap can also be examined through the lenses of income, education, race, age, geography, and so on. Which gap, or gaps, are the ones that really count?

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