A “union transition” is when their parent switches sex partners, which creates relationship instability in the family. This, in turn, raises the likelihood of issues such as emotional and behavioural challenges in both parents and children, higher rates of child abuse, and even higher risks for child mortality.
In a recent study from the Institute for Family Studies (DeRose, et al, 2017) using data from 100 countries to demonstrate that families are more unstable when more children are born to unmarried parents or single mothers. In addition, detailed information from 68 countries shows that the growing numbers of couples choosing cohabitation rather than marriage increases the instability children experience in the early years of their life.
The increased instability of non-marital childbearing persists regardless of the level of the mother’s education, meaning that even in well-educated families a lack of marriage hurts. The likelihood of instability varies by nation, but by-and-large the best chances for a stable and healthy childhood are found when parents are married before they conceive children.
When children are born to couples who are cohabiting but not married, those children are more likely to experience what the report calls a “union transition” before they are 12 years old.
“[C]ohabitation continues to confer a stability disadvantage on individual children even as cohabitation has become more normative,” the report says. “We find no evidence supporting the idea that in societies where cohabiting births are more common, marriage and cohabitation come to resemble each other in terms of stability for children.”
- DeRose, L. Lyons-Amos, M.; Wilcox, W.B.; and Huarcaya, G. 2017: The Cohabitation-Go-Round: Cohabitation and Family Stability Across the Globe, Social Trends Institute, World Family Map 2017.
- Scheer, H, 2017: Global Spike In Cohabitation Is Destabilizing Children’s Lives, The Federalist, http://thefederalist.com/2017/02/06/report-global-spike-cohabitation-destabilizing-childrens-lives/#.WJirhl4AbBs.twitter
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