Study says cohabiting parents do kids harm

Unmarried, cohabiting parents may be putting their kids at risk for a host of personal problems according to a new report from the University of Virgina’s National Marriage Project and the Institute for American Values.

According to a report in the Huffington Post, the new study “pulls together findings from 18 scholars to argue that kids living in cohabiting households don’t do as well socially, educationally and psychologically as kids living in intact married households.”

The authors point to a lack of stability in cohabiting relationships as one of the culprits: cohabiting couples with a child are more than twice as likely to break up before their child turns 12 as their married counterparts.

That lack of stability—defined as the rotating crop of parent-like figures who transition in and out of kids’ lives—is tied to:

  • school failure,
  • behavior problems,
  • drug use and
  • loneliness and depression.

The effects are especially evident in children who experience several of these transitions.

The findings are cause for concern, according to the authors, because cohabiting families are on the rise: there are twelve times as many today as there were in the 1970s. Recent statistics show that 42 percent of kids have lived in a cohabiting household by the age of twelve (by contrast, only 24 percent of kids have experienced divorce by that age).

Marriage, the authors say, is the gold standard for stability and is therefore the relationship that will ensure kids have the best shot at succeeding in life.

Couldn’t agree more.