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Cohabitation with Kids: Worse than Divorce?

Posted on in Divorce

cohabitationWith more and more family units in America cohabiting before or even in lieu of marriage, some are wondering about the effects that choice has on children of cohabiting couples. A Washington Post article criticized the practice, saying that cohabitation has replaced divorce as the biggest source of instability for families in America. Opponents of the practice maintain that the practice is a big issue for American families.

Increase in Popularity

The practice of cohabitation became increasingly popular in America in the 1970s, either before or as an alternative to marriage. In the early 1990s and leading up to now, cohabitation has become a commonplace venue within which to have and raise children. A report published in 2011 found that children were more likely to experience cohabitation than a divorce between their parents.

The subject of the article said that at least four identifiable factors support the shift toward cohabitation:

  1. People prize individualism in today’s society, and cohabitation allows them flexibility and freedom.

  2. Raising children in a cohabiting environment is common among people that lack college degrees. Job opportunities for the less educated are generally poor, which may be preventing some from getting married.

  3. Religious attendance has declined in recent decades. A more secular society means people likely feel less negative connotation associated with cohabiting.

  4. Some research indicates that kids of divorce are more likely to engage in cohabitation, seeing it as a way to delay marriage while they learn more about their partner or put off commitment.

Effects on Children

Those who generally oppose the practice of cohabitation say it could have damaging effects on children. Children may be less likely to thrive in a cohabiting family since their parents may have fewer of the resources they need to make them good parents. Even taking factors like income and education out of the mix, some argue that children of cohabitation may be more likely to suffer from depression, delinquency, and substance abuse. It is of note that some research suggests the children most at risk for these types of negative consequences are those whose mothers cohabit with a boyfriend who is unrelated to the child. This environment may contribute to the instability that often has negative consequences for children.

Solutions

To be sure, and despite any research to the contrary, it surely cannot be said that cohabitation will necessarily have a negative impact on children raised in such an environment. For some who oppose cohabitation, it may be a facet of a more conservative attitude toward marriage and family life. However, there is also another argument to be made in light of some of the research mentioned. It is important to give less educated and lower-income people enough opportunity to improve their situation. Not only will this benefit society, but it will also have farther reaching effects than we realize. By improving the lives of children of cohabiting parents, we set the stage for a more successful future generation.

Child Support Attorney

Please feel free to contact the experienced Kendall County family law attorneys at the Davi Law Group, LLC today to schedule a consultation to discuss any child support or custody matter. Our offices are located in Warrenville, Wheaton, and Chicago.

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