August 2006: Cohabitation Not Working / Marriage Benefits Children

Infants Benefit From a Marital Environment Cohabitation Ends in Separation Much of the Time MARRIAGE : INFANTS BENEFIT FROM A MARRIED FAMILY. In a recent study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, infants’ home environments and relationship with their mothers were found to be healthier when the mothers were married rather than cohabiting or single. Aspects of the mother-child relationship were explored at six and fifteen months of age: the behavior of each toward the other, the home environment, and the nature of the infant’s attachment. With one exception, scores were consistently higher for the married moms. Significantly, the number of adults in the home was less important that the marital status. [“Do Infants Benefit from a Married Family?,” familyfacts.org, http://www.familyfacts.org/featuredfinding.cfm; Abstinence Clearinghouse E-Mail Update, 26Jul06]       COHABITATION ENDS IN SEPARATION HALF OF THE TIME. A study published in the journal Demography finds that almost 1 of 2, or 46 of 100 cohabitating relationships last no longer than 5 years. Thus, 46% of those who live together end in separation, while 44% of such relationships end up in marriage. Table 2 in the journal shows that 24% break up in one year, 34% by two years, 40% by three, 44% by four, and 46% by five. Meanwhile, 24% get married after a year of living together, 34% within two, 39% by three, 42% by four, and 44% by five years of cohabiting. According to the study’s lead researcher, Daniel Lichter of Cornell University, “The common view of cohabitation as a steppingstone to marriage needs to be seriously questioned…Instead, serial cohabitation may be an emerging norm as cohabiting unions form and break...

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...