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Co-Habitation | Negative Outcomes

  • There were currently 6.4 million cohabiting couples in the U.S.   (Census Bureau poll released in 2010)
  • There were more than 2.5 million unmarried couples raising children together in 2009.  (the last U.S. Census Bureau report)   Although at the time of a baby’s birth the majority of couples indicate they want to stay together and raise their child, only a small percentage are able to solidify that relationship. Within 5 years, only 35% of unmarried couples marry; the fathers have stopped trying to making things work with the mother; and 60% of unmarried mothers break up with their child’s father and enter into at least one new partnership.  It is easier for fathers to leave their children when they do not have a legal commitment holding them there.  ("Parenting as a 'Package Deal': Relationships, Fertility, and Nonresident Father Involvement Among Unmarried Parents," US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 2010)
  • While the idea of marriage is still a matter of "intellectual debate" among elites in American society, marriage itself is not a matter of debate for them in practice.   Elites get and stay married and make sure their kids enjoy the benefits of stable marriage...The problem, however, is that (they) tend not to preach what they practice.  They don't want to "impose" on those who really could use their moral leadership, but it is perhaps time for those with education and strong families to stop feigning neutrality and start preaching what they practice pertaining to marriage and parenting...(and) help their fellow Americans embrace it."  (Source:  "Hey Progressive Elites!  It's Time to Preach What You Practice," Editor Hal Boyd, Deseret News, Oct. 20, 2016, deseretnews.com; an University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox) 

  • While the divorce rate has dropped in recent years, it is not an indication that more families are staying together; rather, more people are choosing not to get married in the first place.

    Cohabitating couples report far less happiness than their married counterparts.  They also have a greater rate of breakups, and their socio-economic level is much lower.

    Those who marry after co-habiting have a higher divorce rate, because cohabitating couples differ in their level of commitment to the relationship.

    People think that cohabitation is a great way to practice or test a relationship.  In reality, we know that cohabitation tends to set people up for marital failure – both in terms of high rates of divorce, but also in terms of more conflict in their marriage and less happiness.

    Co-habitation is a tragedy for our nation’s youth.  Kids who are exposed to cohabitation are more likely to be physically abused, to be sexually abused, to have trouble with depression and delinquency and a number of other negative social outcomes. One of (marriage’s) primary purposes is to secure an ideal environment for the rearing of children. We need to make sure that we are having and rearing our kids in the context of a marital union where there’s that commitment and that trust that is going to generate good things for our children.”    “Do Americans recognize the negative impact of cohabitation on future marriage?"  Brad Wilcox, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia, and Jenny Tyree, June 14, 2010.  This news was first published July 29, 2008 by Devon Williams, Associate Editor for CitizenLink.

  • Most of the children born to unmarried mothers—58%--were born to couples who were cohabitating.  Their children suffer significant comparative disadvantages.  For children, the relative stability of marriage matters.  (see Martin, “Births:  Final Data for 2010,” 10-11; W. Bradford Wilcox, Why Marriage Matters: Thirty Conclusions from the Social Sciences, 3rd ed., 2011)

  • Of utmost importance to the well-being of children is whether their parents were married, the nature and duration of the marriage, and, more broadly, the culture and expectations of marriage and child care where they live. Two scholars of the family explain: “Throughout history, marriage has first and foremost been an institution for procreation and raising children. It has provided the cultural tie that seeks to connect the father to his children by binding him to the mother of his children. Yet in recent times, children have increasingly been pushed from center stage.”  (W. Bradford Wilcox and Elizabeth Marquardt, eds., The State of Our Unions: Marriage in America (2011), 82)

  • Most of the children born to unmarried mothers—58%—were born to couples who were co-habitating.  (Martin, “Births: Final Data for 2010,” 10–11)

  • 41% of all births in the United States were to women who were not married.  (see Joyce A. martin and others, “Births: Final Data for 2010,” National Vital Statistics Reports, vol. 61, no. 1 (Aug. 2012), 10) 

  • Children are victimized by marriages that do not occur. Few measures of the welfare of our rising generation are more disturbing than the recent report that 41 percent of all births in the United States were to women who were not married.  (Joyce A. Martin and others, “Births: Final Data for 2010,” National Vital Statistics Reports, vol. 61, no. 1 (Aug. 2012), 10)

  • Whatever we may say about these couples’ forgoing marriage, studies show that their children suffer significant comparative disadvantages.   ("For children, the relative stability of marriage matters," Brad Wilcox, Why Marriage Matters)