Sometimes I’m not sure which is harder: being married or being a parent. I find both equally difficult and equally rewarding. Both require reservoirs of patience and understanding. Yet, being married is not a requirement for parenthood and more and more Americans are choosing to have children and live together without marrying.
As the New York Times reports, that number has increased twelvefold since the seventies. According to a report released last week, children are now more likely to have unmarried parents than divorced ones.
Whoa! That’s wild. When I was growing up around half of my friends’ parents were divorced. I didn’t know a single couple that was unmarried.
The report was published by the National Marriage Project, an initiative at the University of Virginia, and the Institute for American Values. Both groups that argue in favor of the institution of marriage and believe that cohabitation is a growing risk for children, and that their lives are less stable in such families.
Here is how the study breaks down:
According to the National Survey of Family Growth, part of the Centers for Disease Control, 42 percent of children have lived with cohabiting parents by age 12, far more than the 24 percent whose parents have divorced.
The numbers also suggest a correlation with class. Americans with only a high school diploma are far more likely to cohabit than are college graduates, according to the report.
W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and an associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia says cohabitating parents are twice as likely to break up as parents who are married.
I can understand that. During the worst arguments of my marriage, sometimes the only thing keeping me from bailing is that damn marriage certificate and the pain in the ass that filing for divorce would be. Yes, we’ve had some bad fights over the years.
The unmarrried with children movement appears to have educational influences. Wilcox says out-of-wedlock births among white women with a high school diploma jumped nearly 30 percent in the late 2000s. In contrast, the rate for white college graduates stayed flat at about 2 percent.
The report cites other studies that have concluded children of unmarried couples tend to do worse in school and are less psychologically healthy than the children of married parents. Babble’s Madeline Holler, who married her husband when their daughters, 10 and 6, were sitting in the backseat of the family car, isn’t worried about it.
Truthfully, I am not the least bit worried that anything related to my marital status since becoming a parents has had any impact whatsoever on any of my kids. None. Even when we lived in a not-so-progressive city, even when some members of our extended family were confused by our refusal to make it official, there was no scarring, none. Which is not to say I’m not screwing up my kids. It just has nothing to do with Mommy and Daddy pre-Vegas.
I agree. America is filled with all kinds of different families and as long as parents are doing their job I don’t think it matters whether or not they have a binding legal document. I think the study doesn’t take all factors into account and is definitely biased toward marriage. What do you think?
This Stepfather asks: Was I a dad or just a stand-in?