Author archives: Michael Leaser

Suspending Discipline

by Michael Leaser

September 16, 2008

A recent Hartford Advocate story reported on the shockingly high number of school suspensions in the Hartford, Connecticut school district (19 percent). In the report, Marc Porter-McGee of New Haven-based Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now argues that one of the reasons for the high number of out-of-school suspensions is a breakdown in discipline: “Discipline isn’t something that comes when something goes wrong. It comes through every (contact) an adult has with that student, the expectations that are set and consistency with which they’re set.”

Certainly one of the most effective sources of loving but firm discipline in a student’s life is the family. In the latest Mapping America, federal survey data reveals that one of the most protective factors against school suspensions and expulsions is an intact married family. Another protective factor is frequent religious attendance.

This Is Your Brain on Alcohol, This Is Your Brain on God and Family

by Michael Leaser

September 3, 2008

The American Medical Association released a much-discussed report a few months back on the deleterious effects of alcohol abuse on brain development in children, adolescents, and college students. Those effects included a 10 percent smaller hippocampus, the memory and learning center of the brain, as well as damage to the reasoning and decision-making areas of the brain.

In the latest Mapping America, federal survey data illustrate that the first and most fundamental protections against adolescent alcohol abuse are frequent religious attendance and married parents.

Minimum drinking age or maximum parental protection?

by Michael Leaser

August 26, 2008

More than 100 college presidents want lawmakers to consider lowering the minimum drinking age to 18, citing current law as an excuse for furtive alcohol abuse on campus. Dubbed the Amethyst Initiative, this movement has sparked intense debate over the efficacy of such a measure, including the argument that it would put more pressure on high schools to deal with near-legal adolescent drinking. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which has come out against this initiative, has compiled a set of statistics that includes data on the costs of underage drinking, as well as the significant influence parents have.


The latest Mapping America goes even further, examining federal survey data which show that one of the most effective extralegal deterrents to abusive youth drinking is married biological parents.

Underage Drinking—Costs and Protective Factors

by Michael Leaser

August 19, 2008

Most people are well aware that underage drinking can exact a deadly toll, approximately 5,000 youths every year. What may prove even more disturbing is just how young underage drinkers can be. According to the National Institutes of Health, 11 percent of eighth grade students have engaged in binge drinking (blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher), and this percentage increases to 22 percent of tenth grade students and 29 percent of twelfth grade students.

Analyzing additional federal survey data, the latest Mapping America reports that one of the most significantly protective factors against abusive underage drinking is frequent religious attendance.

Getting High at Home

by Michael Leaser

August 14, 2008

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) released its annual National Survey of American Attitudes of Substance Abuse this morning. Most of the survey’s findings aren’t too surprising, but they are disturbing nonetheless. Among the findings: About two-thirds of high school students and twenty percent of middle school students report that drugs are kept, sold, or used on school grounds. A quarter of teens know a parent or guardian of a friend that uses marijuana. And for the first time, prescription drugs are easier for adolescents to obtain than alcohol. It should come as no surprise that the likeliest place for teens to get prescription drugs is in the home.

Taking a close look at federal survey data, the Family Research Council’s Mapping America recently analyzed the significant influence of family structure on adolescent drug use.

Ganging Up on Violence

by Michael Leaser

August 12, 2008

Want to keep your children’s hearts and minds away from gang influence and its accompanying violence? How about more recess and after-school programs? That’s what Chicago fifth graders are requesting. Could this work? Maybe. One very telling element in this proposal is their desire for parents to run these after-school programs.

In this week’s Mapping America, federal survey data show that married parents and regular church attendance are actually the most effective one-two punch against student fighting.

The Most Effective Peacekeepers

by Michael Leaser

August 6, 2008

A former deputy director of children and family services in Illinois recently described her disturbing encounter with a bunch of young children witnessing, but apparently doing nothing to stop, a neighborhood fight. Visibly disturbed by the incident, she offers several solutions to reducing student violence, at the core of which is good parents building their own neighborhood.

The latest Mapping America lends support to these suggestions and demonstrates with federal survey data that married parents are the most effective peacekeeping force.

Adolescent Shoplifting

by Michael Leaser

July 22, 2008

Shoplifting costs American businesses an estimated $16 billion a year, according to the Better Business Bureau. Online Lawyer Source reports that shoplifting causes one-third of new businesses to fail and that adolescents account for about 25 percent of the value of shoplifted goods and about half of all shoplifting cases.

Without costing the taxpayer another dime, there is a way to reduce significantly the incidence of adolescent shoplifting, and that is the subject of the latest edition of Pat Fagan’s Mapping America.

The Price of Broken Families

by Michael Leaser

April 17, 2008

The Institute for American Values just released a groundbreaking report this week called “The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing” [PDF]. Using very conservative calculations, the study estimates that fragmented families cost the American taxpayer at least $112 billion a year. Put another way, over the last five years American taxpayers have spent $500 billion on the war in Iraq and $560 billion on broken families.

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