How Children Shape Parents

How Children Shape Parents
Claire Hassler/Missourian via AP

In an age of partisan polarization, any area of bipartisan agreement is a welcome respite. For many years, policymakers across the aisle have found common ground in an understanding that having two parents in a home is the best scenario for children. The data are unequivocal. Across a wide range of measures (financial, mental, physical, educational), kids do better when supported by two parents, ideally in the context of marriage.

But is there evidence to suggest that children and marriage can improve parental outcomes? A new paper by Maxim Massenkoff and Evan Rose from University of California – Berkeley studied birth, marriage, and arrest records for more than a million people in the state of Washington to determine, among other things, what effects childbirth and marriage have on an individual’s likelihood of committing crime. For both fathers and mothers, the results were stark: pregnancy led to significant decreases in crime (over 50 percent for women and 25 percent for men), while marriage was also associated with reductions in criminal activity. And while crime rates went back up slightly after birth and marriage, becoming a parent or getting married appears to make a sustained impact on criminal behavior.

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