Sometimes during a discussion about the importance of marriage, especially with respect to the frequency with which men leave a relationship that includes a child, the assertion is made that men leave with the same frequency regardless of marital status, since the divorce rate is so high.
That is patently untrue.
Following is evidence that the divorce rate is not as high as some claim it is, followed by evidence showing that unmarried men leave relationships with children at much high rates than married men.
The divorce rate is not actually 50%, it is lower than that. Also, married men do not leave as often as unmarried men.
The following is information of the frequency with which cohabiting couples break up, so keep in mind that couples who have children also include many who do not live together. Their break up rates are even HIGHER than the cohabiting break up rates mentioned here.
Cohabiting parents break up at a much higher rate than married parents and the effects of breakup can be devastating and often long lasting. Moreover, children living in cohabiting unions are at higher risk of sexual abuse and physical violence, including lethal violence, than are children living with married parents.
One of the greatest problems for children living with a cohabiting couple is the high risk that the couple will break up.25
Fully three quarters of children born to cohabiting parents will see their parents split up before they reach age sixteen, whereas only about a third of children born to married parents face a similar fate
Parental break up, as is now widely known, almost always entails a myriad of personal and social difficulties for children, some of which can be long lasting. For the children of a cohabiting couple these may come on top of a plethora of already existing problems. One study found that children currently living with a mother and her unmarried partner had significantly more behavior problems and lower academic performance than children from intact families.27
25. Zheng Wu, "The Stability of Cohabitation Relationships: The Role of Children."Journal of Marriage and the Family 57:231-236.
27. Elizabeth Thompson, T. L. Hanson and S. S. McLanahan.. "Family Structure and Child Well-Being: Economic Resources versus Parental Behaviors." Social Forces 73-1:221-242.
cohabiting couples break up at a rate five times higher than for married couples
Cohabiting parents break up at much higher rates than married parents.6
6 McManus, 2008, p. 41.
Single parenthood stems both from unwed births and from parental breakup after birth. Cohabitation is a factor in spurring higher parenthood due to births to couples not married. It is also responsible due to the higher breakup rate for cohabiting couples who have children -- which is more than twice what it is for married couples with children.
Popenoe tied in the higher break-up rate to the lack of commitment in cohabiting couples, a point also mentioned in the McManus book. Cohabiting partners, he said, “tend to have a weaker sense of couple identity, less willingness to sacrifice for the other, and a lower desire to see the relationship go long term.”
He cited one study carried out in the United States that calculated cohabiting couples break up at a rate five times higher than for married couples.
The Negative Effects of Cohabitation
Linda J. Waite
The Cohabitation Deal versus the Marriage Bargain
Cohabitation is a tentative, non-legal coresidential union. It does not require or imply a lifetime commitment to stay together. Even if one partner expects the relationship to be permanent, the other partner often does not. Cohabiting unions break up at a much higher rate than marriages. Cohabitors have no responsibility for financial support of their partner and most do not pool financial resources. Cohabitors are more likely than married couples to both value separate leisure activities and to keep their social lives independent. Although most cohabitors expect their relationship to be sexually exclusive, in fact they are much less likely than husbands and wives to be monogamous.
A substantial proportion of cohabiting couples have definite plans to marry, and these couples tend to behave like already-married couples. Others have no plans to marry and these tentative and uncommitted relationships are bound together by the "cohabitation deal" rather than the "marriage bargain." In fact, couples may choose cohabitation precisely because it carries no formal constraints or responsibilities.
What Cohabitation "Produces"
As the previous section showed, marriage fosters certain behavioral changes-by both the couple and those around them-that cohabitation simply doesn't encourage: each partner can specialize; in-laws can get involved; children and their parent's spouse can invest in a mutual relationship; and so on. What, though, are the empirical results of these behavioral changes, and of the many other ways in which the two options differ?
Before seeking to answer this question, it must first be acknowledged that cohabiting couples, especially those with no plans to marry, tend to differ from married couples even before the cohabitation begins. Living with someone rather than marrying attracts people less committed to marriage, and less likely to be successful at it. Thus, selection of people with less to offer a partner and less to gain from marriage accounts for some of the poorer outcomes of cohabitors. But, as we shall see, at least some of the evidence suggests that cohabiting itself also contributes to those outcomes.
Recovering the Wheat without the Chaff
The cumulative evidence clearly suggests that compared to marriage, uncommitted cohabitation-cohabitation by couples who are not engaged-is an inferior social arrangement. Couples who live together with no definite plans to marry are making a different bargain than married couples or engaged cohabitors. The bargain is very much not marriage, and is "marriage-like" only in that couples share an active sex life and a house or apartment. Cohabiting men tend to be quite uncommitted to the relationship; cohabiting women with children tend to be quite uncertain about its future. Levels of domestic violence are much higher in these couples than in either married or engaged cohabiting couples. Children in families headed by an unmarried couple do much worse than children in families with married parents. Uncommitted cohabitation delivers relatively few benefits to men, women, or children. This social arrangement also probably benefits communities less than marriage.
Cohabiting couples who don't marry also break up at a rate that greatly exceeds the nation's divorce rate.
Center of the American Experiment
THE FACTS BEHIND COHABITATION
Cohabiting relationships are fragile. They are always more likely to break up than marriages entered into at the same time, regardless of age or income.
Both men and women in cohabiting relationships are more likely to be unfaithful to their partners than married people.
Women in cohabiting relationships are more likely than wives to be abused. In one study, marital status was the strongest predictor of abuse-ahead of race, age, education or housing conditions.
Divorce Rates Going Down ... Way Down
Submitted by admin on Fri, 07/02/2010 - 15:40
Whether listening to talk radio, reading the tabloids or even occasionally from a Sunday morning pulpit, the conventional wisdom is that approximately 50% of marriages end in divorce. This statistic has been so deeply ingrained into our minds and culture that it affects the way people think about marriage, talk about marriage, and even enter into marriage. How disheartening it is to believe that the most intimate and foundational of all human relationships is also so fragile. But host of scientific relationship research cast a much more positive light on the health of marriage in the United States. To begin, these studies reveal that the “50% of marriages end in divorce” mantra is a total myth. The truth is, the rate of divorce peaked at approximately 47% for couples married in the 1970’s, which proved to be a very turbulent decade for marriage. But since that decade, the rate of divorce has been on a steady and encouraging decline. For a more in-depth look at the data, click on the link: Marriage Data When you remove “serial divorcees” from the equation, the divorce rates are even lower. Another encouraging statistic studies like this reveal is that once a marriage reaches the 10 year milestone, it’s chance of lasting a lifetime increases significantly.
Divorce Rate: It's Not as High as You Think
By DAN HURLEY
The New York Times
How many American marriages end in divorce? One in two, if you believe the
statistic endlessly repeated in news media reports, academic papers and
The figure is based on a simple - and flawed - calculation: the annual
marriage rate per 1,000 people compared with the annual divorce rate.
But researchers say that this is misleading because the people who are
divorcing in any given year are not the same as those who are marrying, and
that the statistic is virtually useless in understanding divorce rates. In
fact, they say, studies find that the divorce rate in the United States has
never reached one in every two marriages, and new research suggests that,
with rates now declining, it probably never will.
"The crude divorce rate has been going down," said Dr. Andrew J. Cherlin,
professor of public policy in the sociology department at Johns Hopkins.
"But whether the rates will ultimately reach 45 percent or 50 percent over
the next few decades are just projections. None of them are ironclad."
What all experts do agree on is that, after more than a century of rising
divorce rates in the United States, the rates abruptly stopped going up
U.S. divorce rate falls to lowest level since 1970
“Families with two earners with good jobs have seen an improvement in their standard of living, which leads to less tension at home and lower probability of divorce,” said Andrew Cherlin, a professor of public policy at Johns Hopkins University.
America’s divorce rate began climbing in the late 1960s and skyrocketed during the ’70s and early ’80s, as virtually every state adopted no-fault divorce laws. The rate peaked at 5.3 divorces per 1,000 people in 1981.
But since then it’s dropped by one-third, to 3.6. That’s the lowest rate since 1970.
© 2010 The Associated Press.
Discussion including non-cohabiting parents and cohabiting parents
Paper Submitted to the 2009 Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association
Since unmarried parents are more than four times as likely to break up as to marry, the causes of relationship dissolution among unmarried parents should be a topic of significant scholarly concern.
(Carlson, England, and
McLanahan 2004; Osborne, Manning and Smock 2007).
[A]lmost half of all nonmarital births were to cohabiting parents (McLanahan et al. 2001; Kennedy and Bumpass 2007)
Osborne, Manning, and Smock (2007) found that children born to cohabiting parents were over five times more likely to experience their parents’ separation than children born to married parents.
When asked about their relationships shortly following the birth of a shared child, more than 80 percent of unmarried parents reported that they were romantically involved, and over half said that the probability that they will marry each other is either “good” or “certain” (Center for Research on Child Wellbeing 2007; 2002).
Unmarried parents also attach a high degree of importance to the institution of marriage (Edin and Kafalas 2005; Osborne 2005; Gibson-Davis 2005; Lichter Batson and Brown 2004). Yet, unmarried parents are relatively unlikely to marry following a nonmarital birth. Recent evidence from the Fragile Families Study finds that among a cohort of nonmarital children born in the late 1990s, only 16 percent of their parents have married by their fifth birthday, while over sixty percent are no longer romantically involved.
Qualitative accounts of why unmarried parents break up tend to focus on negative partner behavior and low relationship quality. Unmarried parents who broke up reported higher rates of infidelity, mistrust, substance abuse, and domestic violence; infidelity and mistrust were the most common reported causes of dissolution (Reed 2007; Hill 2007).
While financial and economic issues play a central role in the literature on why married couples divorce (Becker 1991; England and Farkas 1986), they do not play a central role
in unmarried parents’ accounts of why their relationships ended.
Family complexity has a strong influence on the current relationships of unmarried parents. Romantic relationships among unmarried parents with children are often quite volatile even from the beginning (Reed 2007; Hill 2007). As conception is seldom intentional and the length of the courtship before first conception brief, the couple’s relationship is more likely to begin as a response to an unplanned pregnancy—an attempt to build a family around a baby—than as an outgrowth of a stable relationship. Sexual
jealousy between new and old partners is a common theme (Edin, Tach, and Mincy, forthcoming; Hill 2007).
Parents with children from prior marital and nonmarital unions are more likely to experience separation than parents with only one biological child (Carlson et al. 2004; Osborne 2005; White and Booth, 1985). Many of these conditions which increase relationship instability predate
the union (e.g. prior fertility), rather than being caused by it.
Data from fragile families study
We refer to unmarried parents and their children as “fragile families” to underscore that they are families and that they are at greater risk of breaking up and living in poverty than more traditional families.
Edin, Kathryn. and Tach, Laura. "Union Dissolution in Fragile Families" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Hilton San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, Aug 08, 2009 Online <PDF>. 2010-11-19 <http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p309357_index.html>
- You wrote on Nov. 19, 2010 at 11:47 AM