In an article published by the Brookings Institute, Richard Reeves wrote about the fact that Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton became a father on Christmas Eve 2015.
So what’s the big deal, you ask? Cam is single. He and his girlfriend, along with many others, didn’t see the importance of tying the knot before having a child.
Before you stop reading in disgust and think this is just old-fashioned rhetoric, please take a deep breath and try to read all the way to the end.
There is no question marriage is on the decline. 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, says family instability is the consistent and negative implication for child health in both cohabiting and married-parent families.
Moreover, a study on child well-being and family structure by the Centers for Disease Control in 2010 shows that children growing up in homes with their two 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 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. Compare that to only one-quarter of married parents who split up. Cohabiting relationships seem to be more fragile than married 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.
Statistics also show that 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 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? 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. Still others see no benefit in a “formal” arrangement for themselves and for their children.
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, it’s possible to heal from the past and go on to have healthy relationships and even healthy marriage.
But the research is clear. The social, economic, health and emotional benefits of marriage extend to everyone, but are especially crucial for children.