Marriage is declining, and some believe it really doesn’t matter anymore. However, some compelling findings indicate it might matter more than you think, especially for a child’s well-being.

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

Moreover, a 2010 CDC study on child well-being and family structure shows that children from homes with married parents did better in every category.

Children ages 12-17 living with cohabiting parents instead of married parents are:

  • Six times more likely to exhibit emotional and behavioral problems;
  • 122 percent more likely to be expelled from school; and
  • 90 percent more likely to have a lower GPA.

Additional studies indicate that children born to couples that live together are more likely to see their parents break up.

In fact, two-thirds will split up before their child is 12. Most split up before their child is 5. Compare that to only one-quarter of married parents who split up. Cohabiting relationships seem to be more fragile than marital relationships.

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.

As of early 2016, half of all children born to women under 30 were born out of wedlock.

Pew Research and other studies find that most 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? Well, it’s complicated.

For starters, many young people don’t want the kind of marriage their parents had, nor are they confident that they can actually do marriage well. Others say there are no marriageable men or women. Some see no benefit in a “formal” arrangement for themselves and their children.

Plenty of research indicates that healthy marriage positively impacts children and society. And despite growing up with examples of unhealthy marriages, divorce or other adverse childhood experiences, it’s possible to heal from the past and have healthy relationships and even healthy marriages.

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

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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