John Leo

Various studies found that cohabitators are two to five times more violent than married couples. The Centers for Disease Control reported that 6 percent of all pregnant women are battered by their "husbands or partners." Here again, a report obscures reality by lumping together husbands and come-and-go lovers. This key fact was buried in the statistical tables: For every pregnant married woman beaten by her husband, four unmarried pregnant women were beaten by boyfriends. Marriage was the strongest predictor of low rates of abuse in the home -- stronger than race, age, housing conditions or educational attainment. Men as well as women are physically safer when married. Children are safer, too, because marriage provides a protective effect that other relationships can't offer.

This is one of the reasons for President Bush's initiative to promote marriage education and fatherhood. The point man for the administration, Wade Horn, says: "My central overriding concern is not marriage. It is the well-being of children." Right. In general, government is not properly concerned with the adult intimate relationships of its citizens. But it should be concerned when those arrangements inflict damage on children. And all indicators show that this damage is much less frequent when children are raised by committed married parents, not single moms or cohabitors.

Both the Johns Hopkins report and the Times' questionable coverage come just as Washington is beginning to focus on the Bush plan. Both seem to refute Bush's premise by planting the idea that two parents in the home is not really the answer. Why bother with a reform if both the Times and social science tell us it can't work?

Andrew Cherlin is quoted as saying that some promotion of two-parent families might be OK, but "poor children in central cities will probably not benefit as much from the trend toward two-parent families." But his data don't really show that at all. All he knows for sure is that kids aren't helped when you apply the word "parent" to all those churning and replaceable boyfriends. Wade Horn knew that all along. I did too.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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