It’s easy to assume that kids whose parents are happily married do better in life than other kids. But is that really true? And does it apply equally to kids from families with different racial, income, and educational characteristics?

According to a study of 64,000 kids and families, the answer is a resounding YES!

Children whose parents are completely, very, or fairly happily married to each other

* Behave better, with fewer instances of behavior problems
* Have better social relationships
* Are more engaged in school
* Communicate better with their parents, and
* Are less likely to be depressed.

Not surprisingly, parents of these kids find parenting less aggravating.

It’s important to note that the results also show family stability plays a big role in kids’ positive outcomes. Children in stepfamilies where the parent and stepparent are married are twice as likely to have behavior problems as children living with their own married parents. And children in stepfamilies where the parent and stepparent are cohabiting are three times as likely.

Research suggests that the negative findings are related to family instability. Stepfamilies, especially stepfamilies with cohabiting partners, are far more likely to break up than families headed by married biological or adoptive parents. And breakups are known have a huge impact on kids’ well-being.

The study was based on a sample of 64,076 children between the ages of six and 17 living with two parents. It included Hispanic, Black, White, immigrant, non-immigrant families, and families with parents of different incomes educational levels.

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