Strong Families, Strong Young Minds - 11/27/02
cmfce at smartmarriages.com
Wed Nov 27 11:24:14 EST 2002
subject: Strong Families, Strong Young Minds - 11/27/02
from: Smart Marriages®
This article comes just in time for the holidays - sure cheers me up.
Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah! - diane
The Washington Post
Strong Families, Strong Young Minds
By David S. Broder
Wednesday, November 27, 2002
Thanksgiving is the quintessential family holiday, the time when cousins and
aunts, grandparents and grandchildren traditionally gather to share a
festive meal, to exchange memories and create new ones.
In time for this great day come two new reports suggesting that the American
family is looking strong and that we can, if we wish, make the future even
brighter for the youngest among us.
One of the studies comes from the Institute for Social Research at the
University of Michigan. Each year since 1975, the institute has asked a huge
sample of 50,000 students in grades 8, 10 and 12 questions about their life
goals and attitudes. One of those questions is: How important is it to you
to have a good marriage and family life?
It turns out that it is just as vital a goal for today's young people as it
was for their parents. In 1977, 85 percent of the males and 91 percent of
the females rated marriage and family as being extremely or quite important
to them. In 2001, the figures were 88 percent and 93 percent.
Other questions showed them as eager as ever to raise children and as
committed (at least verbally) to monogamy in marriage. The only notable
shift, said study director Arland Thornton, is a significant increase in the
percentage of those who approve of unmarried couples living together "in
order to find out if they really get along."
Turning to the infants, the good news comes from the National Institute for
Early Education Research, a New Jersey-based and foundation-supported think
tank. Two of its staffers, Leonard Masse and W. Steven Barnett, examined the
social and financial results of a preschool program for low-income families
in Chapel Hill, N.C.
The Abecedarian Project has been operating since the 1970s, so the impact on
the lives of 57 infants in the program can be compared over a long period of
time with 54 similar youngsters who did not participate in this program.
The results, much like those in a study of a similar program in Chicago,
about which I wrote 15 months ago, are dramatic. Those who were in the
Abecedarian Project had "significantly higher" mental test scores, from the
time they were toddlers right up through the cutoff point at age 21. Far
fewer were later enrolled in special education or remedial education
classes. And they were 2 1/2 times as likely to go on to college as the kids
in the control group.
Other social benefits also appeared. Those in the program were more likely
to postpone parenthood until an older age. And they were less likely to take
The special feature of this study was its effort to measure the economic
benefits. The Abecedarian Project was expensive, as preschool programs go --
$13,000 per child, about twice the cost of the average Head Start program.
That is because the classes were small, the teachers well trained and well
paid, and the curriculum challenging.
But it paid off in multiples, the researchers said. The lifetime earnings of
those in the project are projected to be $143,000 greater than those in the
control group. The program also involved the mothers of these youngsters,
helping them improve their basic skills in reading, mathematics and other
subjects. As a result, the mothers' incomes are projected to grow by
$133,000 over the years.
That is a huge return on the investment, and it explains why the Committee
for Economic Development, a leading business group, has endorsed a rapid
expansion of high-quality preschool programs, with the goal of making them
available for all youngsters starting at age 3.
Other surveys have shown that three-quarters of the youngsters in this
country ages 3 and 4 are being educated or attended to by someone other than
their parents, so the need and the opportunity to help shape their lives are
As you gather with your loved ones, rejoice that America's teens understand
the value of marriage and family. And remember how much of a boost in life
we can give their children by assuring them of good preschool programs.
© 2002 The Washington Post Company
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