Can the kind of schools we send our kids to help them beyond the realms of education and career success? Can our school choices today contribute to our children’s happy families tomorrow in adulthood? A major academic study released today jointly by the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies shows a significant linkage here. Their research discovered that young people who attend Christian high schools are substantially more likely to go onto have stronger marriages and families in adulthood than their peers who attend public schools.

Specifically, these scholars report that men and women who attended a private, Christian school in their childhood “tend to be more likely to be married, less likely to ever be divorced, and less likely to have had a child outside of wedlock.” Specifically, adults who attended a private Protestant-based Christian school in their formative years are more than twice as likely to be in an intact marriage compared to their peers who attended a public school. They are also 50% percent less likely to have ever had a child outside of marriage and more than 60% less likely to have ever been divorced than their public school attending peers.

These scholars explain that these stronger family outcomes likely derive from two factors: contrasting values taught by public and Christian schools and positive peer influences of fellow students. There are no “value-free” schools. “Every school community…possesses its own view of marriage, family, and sexuality” these scholars explain, and “schools are embedded in a larger web of factors that fundamentally shape students.” Thus, they add, “No aspect of the students’ lives – including marriage, sexuality and family – are untouched” by these competing worldviews.

But peers also play a very powerful factor as role models. Their data found that for youth attending Protestant-based Christian schools, 75% report that “almost none of their school peers” had ever had sex compared to only 16% of public school kids saying so. Regarding the use of illegal drugs, 83% of kids from Christian schools say they hardly know anyone who uses, compared to only 37% of kids from public schools who can say this. Most importantly, 61% of kids from Christian schools say almost all their friends regularly attend church while only 5% of public school kids said so.

This positive impact remained relative to socio-economic factors, with the authors explaining that “religious schools, both Catholic and Protestant, have comparatively more positive influences on family stability for students who grew up in financially difficult circumstances.” They conclude, “The bottom line: students who attend private schools are more likely to forge successful families as adult men and women.”

Beyond enhancing a child’s educational and career prospects, it appears as if faith-based schools also contribute to another essential and rich life enhancement: strong families of their own in adulthood.

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