Cohabitation may be hazardous to your health!
Moving in is not a sound step towards, let alone a substitute for, marriage.
Photo: Katie Tegtmeyer /flickr
The American College of Pediatricians recently published a paper, Cohabitation, which cautions adolescents and young adults about the negative consequences of cohabitation for both themselves and their children, and urges parents to teach their children about the advantages of waiting until marriage.
More young people are now first cohabiting than are marrying without prior cohabitation, yet research shows that, rather than being a stepping-stone to a healthy marriage, living together before marriage (cohabitation) makes couples more likely to break-up and more likely to divorce if they do marry. It results in lower marital satisfaction and increased negative communication. Cohabiting couples spend less time together; men are more likely to spend their time on personal pleasure than do married men.
Cohabiting couples are now less likely to later marry than 40 years ago. Controlling for other factors that increase risk of divorce, marriages preceded by cohabitation are still 50 percent more likely to end in divorce. (Some recent studies challenge this, but are scientifically flawed and omit the raw data.) Also 27 percent of cohabitations dissolve without marriage in the first three years.
Cohabiters commit increased violence against their partner. Women are nine times more likely to be killed by a cohabiting partner than by their husband. Severe violence is four times as common among cohabiting couples; any violence is nearly 50 percent more common among couples cohabiting before marrying and doubled among couples continuing to cohabit after five years.
Men who cohabit without marrying in 5 to 10 years have more than double the rate of alcohol abuse as married men; women who cohabit without marrying have 4 to 7 times the rate of alcohol abuse as married women.
Cohabiters, both men and women, have rates of infidelity in the preceding year more than triple that of married spouses. Among the married, those cohabiting prior to marriage were 50 percent more likely to be unfaithful as those marrying without cohabiting.
Poverty is more common among cohabitating women and their children. Their male partners have both a higher unemployment rate (15 percent vs 8 percent), and work fewer hours if employed. Cohabitating women are ten times more likely to have an abortion than married women, and suffer from its associated mortality and morbidity. In fact, 89 percent of women who have had abortions have at one time cohabited; 40 percent have lived with three or more men. Abortion also puts future children at risk, especially from extremely premature birth.
Children are more likely to suffer
Children who survive also suffer due to parental cohabitation. They have increased risk of losing a parent to divorce or separation, possibly multiple times. Children born of cohabiting parents are over four times more likely to suffer separation of their parents by their third birthdays (49 percent) than those born to married parents (11 percent). (This increase is double among African-Americans, triple among Mexican-Americans, and nearly eight-fold among whites.) One-fourth of teens and 19 percent of cohabiting women overall become pregnant within six months; of these, less than one-fifth overall marry within six months (less than half among college graduates).
Nearly one-third of couples enter into cohabitation with a child from a previous relationship, as do half of those cohabitating for six years or longer. Children living with a parent and unmarried partner (live-in boyfriend) have 20 times the risk of sexual abuse and eight times the risk of all maltreatment compared to children living with married biological parents. Even if the couple marries, stepchildren have over eight times the risk of sexual abuse and triple the overall risk of abuse of neglect. Girls living with a step-parent had 60 percent higher risk of being raped than girls living with their biological parents.
Women in cohabiting relationships have more depression than married women, and poorer responsiveness to their children’s emotional needs. Children whose mothers are depressed have increased cortisol responses to stress (which may explain their increased hypertension in adulthood). Children with unmarried mothers are half as likely to be breastfed, leading to higher rates of asthma, pneumonia, ear and intestinal infections, diabetes, obesity, and lower intelligence.
Children born of married parents were far more likely to live with both biological parents at age 15 than were children born to cohabiting parents (62 percent vs 37 percent). Children from single parent homes had twice the risk of suicide, alcohol and drug abuse and psychiatric disease as did those from two parent homes, and their risk of dying from addiction was over three times for girls and five times for boys. These risks continue into adulthood. Children whose parents married prior to their conception showed less aggression at age three than children whose parents married while they were in utero or just after birth, and they showed less aggression than children whose parents married more than a year after they were born. Children reared by both biological parents are less likely to commit a minor or serious crime compared to all other family living arrangements.
Children whose parents lived together (before or after their birth) are at increased risk for living in poverty, and experiencing school failure from first grade through college, resulting in lower levels of education and earning lower incomes as adults. In addition, they face a greater risk of suffering from medical neglect, as well as chronic physical and mental health problems.
Living with biological or adoptive parents at age 14 decreased teen pregnancy rates by two-thirds; girls were more likely to marry rather than cohabit and less likely to divorce if married. Cohabitation increases the risk of broken relationships/divorce for the children involved, perpetuating the cycle.
In summary, while cohabitation appears to be a practical stepping-stone to a healthy marriage, it actually increases risks both to those who cohabit and to their current and future children and grandchildren. Cohabiting couples are more likely to break up, and more likely to divorce if they do marry. They are more likely to be unfaithful than married spouses, to be violent toward the other partner, and to abuse alcohol.
Risks to their children include: parental separation, step-parents, half-siblings, and step-siblings leading to increased internal family strife; induced death; death/disability from prematurity; more behavior problems, anxiety, depression, academic decline, and social relationship problems; more child abuse and physical injuries.
Such children are also at risk of increased substance, alcohol and tobacco abuse; increased physical and mental health problems in childhood and adulthood, more suicide attempts and suicides, more alcohol and drug-related disease; more poverty; more involvement in both petty and serious crime.
They are also more at risk of rape, teen sexual activity, premarital pregnancy (including increased risks of death and prematurity to the children of these adolescents) and divorce themselves, thus carrying on the negative consequences to the third and fourth generations.
Parents, pediatricians and other heath care providers, educators, the media and policymakers alike need to educate adolescents about the risks of cohabitation and the life-long benefits of marriage for the entire family and society. The institution of marriage is one of the best and most cost-effective public health tools society has. Adolescents and young adults should be encouraged to save sexual relationships for marriage to achieve optimal health for themselves, their children and society at large.
Patricia Lee June, MD, FCP, is a member of the board of the American College of Pediatricians.
Want to Be a “Liberated” Feminist Rather Than a Christian Woman? Think Again!!!!
The following article may change your life and reignite your Christian faith as everything suggested here has been professed by the tenets of Christianity for thousands of years.
Even in popular culture, some aspect of it (like films) show that cohabitation could harm children affected. One example is a spy action-comedy film called “Kingsman the Secret Service” (Spoiler alert). Garry “Eggsy” Unwin, the main hero, before becoming a secret agent for the eponymous agency was an unemployed and troublesome young adult living with his mother, his infant stepsister, and his “stepfather” or I think his mother’s partner, an abusive man. But the film also show a good side of a man’s protective side; Eggsy’s biological father, a Kingsman agent who sacrificed himself to protect a fellow colleague in the start of the movie.
The movie itself is fun to watch, and in some cases show the troubles of modern society, to be honest.
I’m glad to here about a recent movie with a moral to the story. Most movies produced since the social chaos of the late 1960s and early 1970s just show people’s depleted, or debauched, lives as though they were normal, and without any ramifications, regrets, revelations or solutions. (All of which are important teachings, and warnings, instituted by Christianity) They are instead, a reflection of the morally, ethically and sexually corrupted lives of the non-Christians who gained total control of the film industry at that same chaotic time. If you’ve not, as of yet, read my Page – “Good Movies”, please do. It explains this transition in detail and also includes a list of movies produced BEFORE the sexually twisted non-Christians took control of the movie industry.
The moral (i.e. the dangers of cohabitation) is relatively hidden in the story and only some people can recognize it. Kingsman itself a “standard” from zero to hero story, from a troubled unemployment youth to a gentlemanly and skillful spy.
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love this post! You can’t have it both ways….. as you can not serve two masters…..
yeah, the living together thing… I have seen friends enter into too many nightmares regarding this…..it only practices divorce. Especially young people.
oh btw… this is tink 😉 …thought ‘d go back to my default position as everyone knows me as surfercajun. …giggle
I’m in the same boat. I’m always surprised at the number of young women who fail to associate their sexual exploits with their self-respect. Nice to hear from you again and thank you for your comment.
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Great post Kathy. Cohabitation as you stated does not promote healthy relationships, and I often try and bring attention to the fact that it actually hides the real divorce rates. I hear people all the time talk about how the divorce rate peaked at 50% in the 1980’s, but the truth is the only reason it peaked at 50% is because people started marrying less, and cohabiting more in 1980s. But as you correctly point out, cohabiting people may stay together as a couple for 3 or even 5 years(and even have a child or two together), but then when they break up, it is not recorded as a divorce, this helps to mask the real problem, that long lasting, committed marriage between a man and woman, has been decimated in this country. I wish more people, and especially Christians, would wake to this crisis as the family is the building block of society, and marriage is the core of the family.
I couldn’t agree more and it must begin with the pastors of our churches.
Hmm, interesting. I know two people who lived together for nearly five years, eventually got married and were divorced less than a year later. It kind of fascinates me because what was different there, what made those marriages fail? They claimed living together was their “trial run,” but it didn’t pay off at all.
I honestly think the concept of marriage was designed by God for only one reason, the protection of the children of that couple. When marriage is viewed as anything else, it is doomed to failure.
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