More parents living together instead of getting married

More parents living together instead of getting married August 16, 2011

And that’s becoming even more common than divorce, according to this new report:

The number of Americans with children who live together without marrying has increased twelvefold since 1970, according to a report released Tuesday. The report states that children now are more likely to have unmarried parents than divorced ones.

The report was published by the National Marriage Project, an initiative at the University of Virginia, and the Institute for American Values, two partisan groups that advocate for strengthening the institution of marriage. The report argues that the rise of cohabitation is a growing risk for children, and that their lives are less stable in such families.

The report cites data from the Census Bureau as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and includes work from 18 researchers who study family issues.

According to the National Survey of Family Growth, part of the Centers for Disease Control, 42 percent of children have lived with cohabiting parents by age 12, far more than the 24 percent whose parents have divorced.

The numbers also suggest a correlation with class. Americans with only a high school diploma are far more likely to cohabit than are college graduates, according to the report.

“There’s a two-family model emerging in American life,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and an associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. “The educated and affluent enjoy relatively strong, stable families. Everyone else is more likely to be consigned to unstable, unworkable ones.”

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7 responses to “More parents living together instead of getting married”

  1. 1388798957, LOL!
    Seriously, I think a lot of young women go into situations like this thinking, “He’ll marry me when the time is right.”
    Unfortunately there is a better than even chance that this won’t happen. My mother used to say, “They won’t buy a cow if the milk’s free.” And even worse than having a commitment-challenged guy for the father of her children, a woman can end up with an abusive or substance-abusing partner who puts the children at risk. Of course they could marry someone like this, too; but these type of relationships increase that likelihood.

  2. 1970 was two generations ago. I’m more interested in recent trends, say the past decade. Also interesting would be to know how many live-in couples eventually get married, and what impact such marriages have on their families, their divorce or abuse rates, etc., as a function of, say, how many years they had sex before committing.

    I remember that oft-quoted study about higher divorce rates for cohabiting couples who eventually marry. But what the statistics also show is that for couples whose first sexual encounter is before marriage with the same future spouse, divorce rates are just about the same.

    For human beings, it would seem the qualities are not getting married before having sex with “the one true love,” but once you’ve found the person, to commit exclusively, faithfully, and permanently.

    For those of us in church ministry, the questions are: how do we encourage, solicit, and invite live-in couples to make a marriage commitment? Given their reality, how do we prepare them for marriage? Are we able to present them with enough good tools to make their marriage work without the stigma of “80% more likely to divorce” or other unhelpful advice?

  3. Todd, the article said that the 1970 statistic has increased TWELVEFOLD since then. So, it’s not an old stat.

    Though it seems that it affects undereducated the most, I wonder that if it were financially easier in this country to afford medical care, if more would marry.

    Many people I know hold onto their single status not for their lack of belief in marriage, but with a combined income, not being able to afford medical care and at single status qualifying for Medicaid.

  4. Perhaps some feel that IF things “go bad” then one or the other leaves and there is no expensive/messy divorce. Yes, it hurts everyone, children and the man and woman involved, but not the cost of a lawyer and all that entails.

  5. Yesterday Todd objected to an Irish bishop’s reference to children of divorce as “born losers.” He correctly noted that these children were not “born” into divorced households. Perhaps the bishop should have applie the term to children born into cohabiting households. As the article notes, their prospects in life are dim in comparison with those of children born into stable 2-parent families

    It’s still fashionable in some circles to make light of what is happening to children as normal family life disappears among the poor and the lower middle-class. In fact, the oft-quoted liberal sociologist Stephanie Coontz has made a career out of it. But it is no small matter to the children themselves–or to the wider society in which we all live. Children without stable home environments are a menace to themselves and to us all.

    My adopted daughter’s birth-mom had 7 children, 6 of them with live-in partners who later split. Aside from two who were adopted into 2-married-parent families, these kids are barely holding their heads above water. My morning began with a call from jail. One of the group was wondering if I knew how much time another one had been sentenced to serve at his trial yesterday. That is the bleak reality more and more of our children face as the structure of the American family collapses.

  6. Grave sin never produces anything of value. Parishes need to take a strong stand that this is not acceptable and those living in this environment prior to marriage must seperate from it and go to confession before they can be considered for marriage. We need to put the social stigma back into this mess so that it is clear to everyone that it is not acceptable period….

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