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Marriage vs “Shacking up”: How do kids take it?

In Child Development, Cohabitation, Divorce, Marriage, Parenting on September 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm

By Danny Quinney

First,  I think it is important to tell you, I consider myself an expert on marriage.  Not that I’m educated in, received any awards, accolades, or even an “atta boy” on the subject.  Next month (October 2011) my wife and I will have been married 20 years.  TWENTY YEARS!!!  Honestly.  Take the fact I was able to fool this woman, who is my superior in EVERY way, into marrying me in the first place, and just put that on the back burner.  The fact I have sweet talked her into STAYING with me all these years proves I’m an expert on marriage.  Now if you want to send a gift (and I understand the desire) I think cash is the best gift.  Yes….cash.

Now, some would argue that cohabiting parents are just as effective as married parents.  Oh no, no, no, dear reader. Not according to a recent report from the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project and the Institute for American Values, entitled “Why Marriage Matters”.  According to the report, which pools together findings from 18 scholars, children living in cohabiting homes do not do as well educationally, socially, or emotionally as children living in intact married households.  In fact the study says, “Today, the rise of cohabiting households with children is the largest unrecognized threat to the quality and stability of children’s family lives”.

WHY?

According to the study, cohabiting relationships are more prone to be unstable, with “multiple transitions” and breakups; children are less likely to thrive in such homes.

Recent federal data indicates children who are in cohabitation households with mom and mom’s boyfriend are much more likely to be sexually, emotionally, and psychically abused then those who live in both intact and single parent homes

Does this mean that EVERY cohabiting family has doomed their children to a life of woe and misery?    

Of course not.  For instance, one national study of 6 to 11-year-olds found that only 16 percent of children from cohabiting families experience serious emotional problems.  By way of comparison, the same study showed only four percent of children from families headed my married biological or adoptive parents had serious emotional problems.

According to the report there are twelve times the number of cohabiting families now then there was in the 1970.  Statistics show 42 percent of kids have lived in a cohabiting home by the age of twelve (only 24 percent of kids have experienced divorce by that age).  I’m no mathematician, but I do own a calculator, I came up with twice as many kids have LIVED in a cohabiting household (I really didn’t need the calculator for that, I was able to do it in my head).

It is interesting to note that married couples are about four times more likely to remain faithful to one another then their cohabiting counterparts.  Obviously, not all marriages are good, and there are cohabiting couples that have perfectly healthy families, but the authors of the study say marriage is the “gold standard for stability” and that marriage will ensure kids have the best shot at succeeding in life.

To view the complete report on “Marriage Matters:  Thirty Conclusions from Social Science,” go here.

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