Marriage Benefits Children

In a recent article published by the Brookings Institute, Richard Reeves talked about the fact that Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton became a father on Christmas Eve.

So what’s the big deal you ask? Cam is not married. He and his girlfriend, along with many others, did not think it was important to tie the knot before having a child.

Wait. Before you disgustedly stop reading this column, thinking it is just old-fashioned rhetoric, take a deep breath and make every effort to read all the way to the end.

There is no question marriage is on the decline and some believe it really doesn’t matter anymore. However, some compelling findings indicate it might matter more than you think, especially when it comes to a child’s well-being.

Wendy Manning, director of the Center for Family and Demographic Research at Bowling Green State University, states that family instability is the consistent and negative implication for child health in both cohabiting and married parent families.

A study on child well-being and family structure released by the Centers for Disease Control in 2010 showed that children growing up in homes with their two married parents did better in every category.

Children ages 12-17 living with cohabiting parents compared to married parents are:

Additional studies indicate that children born to cohabiting couples are much more likely to see their parents break up; in fact, two-thirds will split up before their child is 12, most splitting up before their child is five, compared to only one-quarter of married parents. Cohabiting relationships are more fragile than married relationships.

Currently, half of all children born to women under 30 are born out of wedlock.

Economic indicators show that 21 percent of children with cohabiting parents live below the poverty line. Only one in 10 children with married parents lives in poverty.

Pew research and other studies find that the majority of Americans would like to marry someday. So why are so many young people choosing cohabitation over marriage? What explains the increase in women under 30 choosing to have children outside of marriage? It’s complicated.

Many young people do not want the type of marriage they saw their parents have, nor do they have the confidence that they could actually do marriage well. Still others say there are no marriageable men. Still others see no benefit in a “formal” arrangement like marriage for themselves and for their children. Some women say there are no marriageable men.

There is plenty of research indicating that healthy marriage positively impacts children and society. There is also evidence that, in spite of people growing up in homes where they witnessed unhealthy marriages, experienced divorce and perhaps had other adverse childhood experiences, they can heal from the past and go on to have healthy relationships and even healthy marriage.

The social, economic, health and emotional benefits of marriage extend to everyone, but are especially crucial for children.



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