In the report The Cohabitation-Go-Round: Cohabitation and Family Stability Across the Globe, it comes at a time when an ever-increasing number of children find themselves born into families that aren’t legally bound together by marriage. This is a new trend in the western world, and it’s being widely researched: in the US “…between the 1970s and the early 2000s, the percentage of women who got married by the time their first child was born fell by half, according to research by Jonathan Vespa, Ph.D., a demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau, and Kimberly Daniels, Ph.D., of the National Center for Health Statistics. The percentage of unmarried pregnant women who lived with their baby’s father by the time of the birth jumped from 8 percent to 28 percent. Says Dr. Vespa, ‘It’s been a record transformation.’ In Australia, one-parent households make up 16% of all households with 2011 ABS data citing 1 in 5 households being headed by a single parent.
Sometimes having an intact family is outside the parents’ control, and we certainly need to look at how to increase the chances for positive outcomes for children with single mothers and unmarried, cohabiting parents.
Adults cite many reasons for delaying or avoiding marriage, from simply not wanting to get married, to avoiding sharing bad financial credit, or not believing that marriage makes a relationship more secure. Women also increasingly feel that marriage isn’t needed to make them financially secure. Cultural acceptance of premarital sex combined with contraception use also means people are more likely to have unmarried sex, which can actually increase birthrates to unmarried couples because no form of contraception prevents conception 100 percent.
While religious groups have long championed marriage as the best framework for adults and their children, secular organisations and researchers have in recent decades been noting the same thing based on the mountain of social science demonstrating it. Children are more likely to be safe from abuse and neglect when they’re born to married parents, and less likely to have problems with stress and trouble in school.
Children born to single mothers experience even more instability than children born to cohabiting couples, with children in single-mother households being 9 times more likely to have at least one transition before the age of 12. This study firmly shows that across the world marriage confers the best chances for 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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