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Study: More Children Affected by Cohabitating Couples Than Divorce

"Pick a partner carefully, then hang in there -- for better, or for worse."

The Institute for American Values and the National Marriage Project released a report recently that says children are more likely today to suffer difficulties -- including separation, increased likelihood for abuse, trouble in school and poverty -- from cohabitation of unwed parents than they are from divorce.

That is because 14 times the amount of people are living together before marriage compared to in 1970. According to Why Marriage Matters, more than 24  percent of children are born to cohabitating parents and 20 percent spend time in a cohabitating household with an adult that is not their parent at some point in life. This latter percentage includes children who live in cohabitating environments after parent's divorce.

NPR reports study co-author Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, says that divorce rates of have dropped but there has been an increase in people having children out of wedlock and living with their partners -- a relationship with more instability:

Wilcox says the children of the divorce revolution grew up to be understandably gun-shy about marriage. Many are putting it off, even after they have kids. But research shows such couples are twice as likely to split.

"Ironically," he says, "they're likely to experience even more instability than they would [have] if they had taken the time and effort to move forward slowly and get married before starting a family."

Listen to the story as reported by NPR:

According to the press release, cohabitating couples are 170 percent more likely to break up than married couples in the United States. The report not only points to the instability such relationships cause for children, but federal data also shows that children are more likely to experience abuse in cohabiting environments, in addition to trouble in school and other problems, compared to children in married households with their biological parents.

John Gottman, psychologist and report co-author, told NPR that children of cohabitating couples even have more externalized and internalized disorders, aggression, and depression. "Gottman's advice, even if you decide not to tie the knot: pick a partner carefully, then hang in there — for better, or worse."

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