Marriage - Definitions / History / Statistics / Studies

Cohabiting & the Effects on Children (updated)

About 2.9 million children under age 18 live with a parent & his/her unmarried partner.

About 41% of opposite-sex live-togethers have children younger than 18 in their homes. That means about 4% of US children live in cohabiting “families”.

[US Census Bureau Population Survey, 3/02; USA Today, 18Sept03]

Cohabiting Stats from late 1990s:

The number of cohabiting couples has increased from just over half a million in 1970 to 4.2 million in 1998, and that over 50% of marriages today are preceded by cohabitation.

A recent study by pollster John Zogby found that general acceptance of the practice is increasing, with 56% of Americans thinking it is acceptable for an engaged couple prior to marriage.

Nearly 60% of teens agree or mostly agree that it is a good idea for an engaged couple to live together before marrying, in order to “find out whether they really get along.”

However, living together prior to marriage increases the chance for divorce later, and the practice produces many other negative effects:


**cohabitants report higher levels of alcohol problems than married people;
**aggression is twice as common among cohabitants;
**there is greater marital instability and lower marital satisfaction and poorer communication during marriage following cohabitation;
**depression rates among cohabiting couples are over three times the depression rates among married couples;
**cohabitants report more frequent disagreements, more fights and violence, and lower levels of fairness in and happiness with their relationships than do married people.

The effects of the practice on children is also detrimental.

Children living with biological parents who are unmarried are 20 times more likely to be abused, and children whose mother is living with a boyfriend are 33 times more likely to be abused.

The Poverty Rate in 1996 for children living in cohabiting households was 31%, as compared with 6% for children in married couple households.

In addition, children living in cohabiting households had more behavioral problems and poorer academic scores than children in married households.

[FL Eagle Forum Capital Chapter newsletter, by Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, 11-12/00, from AL Eagle News & notes, 12/00]