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Americans Say Family Life Worse, Survey Finds

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Black Americans are more likely than other segments of society to believe that children today "have it rougher'' than their parents did, and a majority of Americans concur that changes in family life in the past three decades "have been generally for the worse,'' a new survey shows.

The Family Research Council, a conservative Washington-based group that champions "traditional family values,'' released the survey of 1,100 randomly selected adults last week.

The council's president is Gary L. Bauer, a domestic-policy adviser under President Reagan.

The group argues that the survey shows former Vice President Dan Quayle "was right'' to conclude, in criticizing the television show "Murphy Brown,'' that children fare better in two-parent families. The survey showed that 83 percent of those polled believe that to be true. But 56 percent said women should not be judged for having children out of wedlock.

Over all, 72 percent of the respondents said changes in family life in recent decades have been for the worse. Concern about the negative impact of such changes was especially high among women, middle-class adults, divorced women, single-earner married couples, families with at least three children, and "frequent church-goers.''

Despite the civil-rights gains of the past few decades, the survey showed African-Americans were more likely than any other group to say changes in family life have hurt children. Blacks were also more likely to conclude that children are no longer safe at school or at play, and 61 percent of those polled supported vouchers to send their children to the school of their choice.

Asked to rate the impact on children of six social institutions, respondents gave their highest ratings to "churches'' and "youth organizations like the Boy Scouts.'' "Schools'' and "day care'' ranked third and fourth, respectively, while "the entertainment industry'' and "the federal government'' were viewed most negatively.

Other survey findings include:

  • 57 percent of respondents would be willing to work fewer hours while rearing children and postpone retirement to age 70.
  • 76 percent of those polled would rather live in a setting that upholds "traditional family values'' than one "very tolerant of non-traditional lifestyles.''
  • 89 percent of dual-earner married couples think "young children fare better when they are primarily cared for by their own mother rather than a day-care provider.''

Political Message

In an apparent attempt to put moderate Republicans on notice, the group says the level of support shown for alternatives to the public school system--such as home schooling--suggest that supporters of the former Presidential candidate H. Ross Perot "could be a key education-reform constituency.''

It also cites data suggesting that veering to the left on social issues "would hurt the G.O.P. in 1996'' and that the party could lose substantial support if it nominates a candidate who "favors abortion and homosexual rights.''

But the group says many divisive family issues "could be resolved if people were to consistently agree that the needs of children supersede the preferences of adults.''

More information is available from the Family Research Council, 700 13th St., N.W., Suite 500, Washington, D.C. 20005.

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