"Shacking Up" Destabilizes Children's Lives

A new report examines global data on whether children born to cohabiting couples experience more family instability than children born to married couples, and whether the number of children born to non-married couples leads to more family instability worldwide.  The short answer: Yes.

Given global increases in the number and proportion of children being born to single mothers and couples that live together but aren’t married, this study is timely and necessary for looking at the effects of parental choices on their children’s wellbeing.

The study from the Institute for Family Studies used data from 100 countries to demonstrate that families are much 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.

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’re 12 years old. A “union transition” is when their parent switches sex partners, which creates relationship instability in the family.  That, in turn, raises the likelihood of family woes such as emotional and behavior troubles in both parents and kids, higher rates of child abuse, and even higher risks for child mortality in the global south.

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.

Additionally, children born to single mothers experience even more instability than children born to cohabiting couples, with children in single-mother households being nine 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.

Psychologically healthy children with stable childhoods do better as adults.  Instead of starting kids out disadvantaged, give your children the best chances at success: if you’re going to have sex and kids, get married first.

This agrees with the Bible teachings that marriage is the only morally acceptable climate for producing children, and marriage is unequivocally between a man and a woman.