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The United States has gone from the most marrying society in the world to one with the most divorces and unwed mothers, damaging the welfare of children in the process, a study on marriage released Friday said.

"If we're concerned about teen pregnancies, illegitimacy, deadbeat dads and children in poverty, then we can no longer ignore the common denominator behind these problems -- the steady weakening of marriage as the primary institution for raising children," the authors of "Marriage in America: A Report to the Nation" said of their two-year study.

The authors include Rutgers University sociology Professor David Popenoe and Jean Bethke Elshtain, professor of social and political ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School. They conclude that the decline of marriage is mainly responsible for the deteriorating well-being of children.

The study by the Council on Families in America, a self-described group of 18 non-partisan scholars and social historians, said the percentage of married adults decreased to 62 percent from 72 percent between 1970 and 1990.

It also said 50 percent of first marriages are likely to end in divorce.

The study found that the decline in marriage has been most severe among black American families, where 57 percent of children living with single mothers are poor, compared with 15 percent who live in poverty with both married parents.

Among the council's recommendations were that the entertainment industry should not "glamorize unwed motherhood, marital infidelity, alternative lifestyles and sexual promiscuity."

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