Children Do Better With Married Parents vs. Cohabiting Couples: Study

New research released this week highlights the differences between children who were born into married households versus those with cohabiting and single parents. 

(Photo: Reuters/Darren Staples)A woman walks a child on to a playground in Loughborough, central England, January 29, 2013. Childminders and nurseries in England will be allowed to increase the amount of children that can be looked after per individual, to cut childcare costs and improve standards.

The study from the Institute From Family Studies titled, "The Cohabitation Go-Round: Co-habitation And Family Instability Across the Globe" analyzes the worldwide decline in marriage rates and its effects on children. 

"[C]ohabitation continues to confer a stability disadvantage on individual children even as cohabitation has become more normative," the study reads. "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."

Aggregated data from 100 nations shows that families are much more unstable when children are born to unmarried parents or to single mothers. More detailed findings from 68 of those countries reveal that the rising rates of couples choosing not to marry significantly destabilizes children, particularly in their early years of life.

In the United States,"most children born to single parents are drawn into cohabiting or marital relationships while they are growing up, and relationships formed after the birth of a child are less stable — even if the biological parents partner."

And while it may be easier to consider single parents as more of a disadvantage for children because they have less time and income than coupled parents, the researchers hold that "part of the disadvantage associated with being born to a single mother may be the heighted risk of subsequent union transitions faced by children of single mothers."

Such "union transitions" — when a child's parent changes sex partners — creates further relationship instability in the families and usually occurs before children turn 12 years old. Rates of child abuse and neglect also rise when these relational dynamics are present.

And, according to the study, "couples who commit to one another before having a biological child usually have a deeper commitment than those who partner in the wake of getting pregnant."

Writing at the Federalist on Monday, Holly Scheer noted that even secularists are realizing "based on the mountain of social science demonstrating it" what religious groups have advocated for many years — that marriage is the absolute best framework for adults and their children.

"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," Sheer said.

"With clear data that marriage is best for kids, though, all sexually active adults of childbearing age need to stop and consider whether their decisions will create a safe space for any kids they may have," she added. 

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