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Two parents may not be better than one

World Family Map study examines the family unit and its changing shape across cultures.

By Britt Olson MSN Living Editor Jan 24, 2013 6:13PM

A 2013 study, World Family Map, found that poorer children with one parent were just as successful academically as wealthier children with two parents.

Photo: Lihee Avidan/Getty ImagesThe study, sponsored by the international research organization Child Trends, analyzed family socioeconomics, processes, structures and cultures across all continents. Findings suggest that in the West, primarily in North America and Europe, individuals are increasingly choosing not to marry and not to have children—a phenomenon to which many publications have already attested. There is also a growing acceptance across cultures for single-mother households.

"Since there are huge shifts in families all over the world, we wondered about the implications of those shifts  for children," said Child Trends program director, Laura Lippman. "Do patterns we see in the U.S. and other higher countries hold true for lower income countries as well?"

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"Nontraditional families made up of people linked neither by blood nor by marriage have often existed, are now found in growing numbers in many regions around the world," according to the study.

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The study’s authors say that extended family involvement in these higher poverty regions may contribute to children who are more resilient educationally. Governmental aid may also counterbalance the loss of a parental income.

But the authors remind us that in many lower-income bracket countries educational opportunity is a challenge for all children, regardless of family structure.

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World Family Map will continue to investigate these findings. According to the authors, countries can learn much from the successes of each other during this period of social change and familial instability.

"We are developing a network of researchers and practitioners around the world who focus on family and child well-being, and research partnerships are developing to address important questions that will further our understanding of how families can be strengthened by learning lessons from around the globe," said Lippman.

Read the study here (.pdf).

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Photo: Lihee Avidan/Getty Images

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