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Christian Private School Students More Likely to Have Stable Marriages, New Study Finds

A new study finds kids who attend Christian private schools in the U.S. are more likely to marry and stay married and less likely to have a child out of wedlock than students who attend public schools.

The study by the Institute of Family Studies and the American Enterprise Institute was released Sept. 16 and led by Albert Cheng, Patrick J. Wolf, Wendy Wang and W. Bradford Wilcox.

Of those private school students, the students who attended Protestant schools were more than twice as likely to be in an intact marriage than a student who attended a public school. The same Protestant school attendees were 60 percent less likely to get a divorce than public school students.

“When it comes to family life, public schools stress the importance of being tolerant and accepting of family diversity or just avoid talking about loaded matters touching on marriage, divorce, and non-marital childbearing,” the report said.

According to studies like the Cardus Education Survey, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and the National Study of Youth and Religion, students who attend religious schooling also report higher marriage rates. 

Granted, that may seem obvious given the sexual ethics laid throughout the Bible, but it goes further than that, according to the study. These schools are not only shaping intellectual integrity but are also working to advance character formation. 

The findings in the report were mainly based on studies conducted by Understanding American Study (UAS), a study based at the University of Southern California for the Center for Economic and Social Research. The attendees polled came from a random sample of 8,500 people at and above the age of 18, all who attended a mix of Catholic, Protestant, secular private, and public schools. 

Though the teaching itself inspires much of this data, the peer environment at each school holds a large stake in the way that students act. 

Students from Protestant schools are the least likely to have a child out of wedlock, and they are the most likely to not engage in pre-marital sex. Three-quarters of Protestant school attendees answered that almost no kids around them had sex. Catholic-school attendees were about 30 percent less likely to have had a child out of wedlock than those who attended public schools. Only 16 percent of public school students could say the same. 

Generally, Catholic and private secular students were more likely to report students around them having sex than those at Protestant schools. They also were more likely to see the use of illegal drugs at their Catholic or private secular schools.

Students who have parents in intact marriages are more likely to also have long-lasting marriages without divorce or children out of wedlock, according to IFS. Reportedly, the most prevalent group to have stable marriage relationships have children that attend Protestant schools. 

What does this say about Protestant education?

Protestants tend to emphasize traditional family values in both education and family life. Protestants are generally less likely to get a divorce or have a child out of wedlock, modeling to their children that the likewise is the more desirable way to live. 

Though this says a lot about different types of religious and non-religious education, there are pieces missing. Overall, non-white people are less likely to have intact marriages among both Catholic and public schools. 

Generally, people who attend private schools—whether that be Protestant, Catholic, or secular—are more likely to form and maintain nuclear families as adult men and women.

This article first appeared at Religion UnPlugged. 

Mattie Townson is an intern for Religion Unplugged and a journalism student at The King’s College. She is the Campus Editor for her school newspaper, The Empire State Tribune.

Mattie Townson

Mattie Townson is an intern for Religion Unplugged and a journalism student at The King's College. She is the Campus Editor for her school newspaper, The Empire State Tribune.