A new report this week documents the damage done to children who grow up in homes where parents live with partners without formal commitment:
In the latter half of the 20th century, “divorce posed the biggest threat to marriage in the United States,” sociology professor W. Bradford Wilcox and 17 other scholars said in a report released this week by the Institute for American Values’ Center for Marriage and Families and the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.
That is no longer the case, they said.
“Today, the rise of cohabiting households with children is the largest unrecognized threat to the quality and stability of children’s family lives.”
I’ve been beating this drum for a while. What’s great in this article are the quotes from a woman who still wants to champion “alternative” families:
“Generalities about cohabiting are not particularly helpful,” said Ms. Schranz, a Unitarian Universalist minister in California.
“What matters is the quality of the relationships of the people cohabiting,” she said. “Just as there are poor relationships among cohabiting people, there are poor relationships among married people. The status of their relationship does not govern the quality of the relationship.”
“Generalities?” You mean facts gathered from research? Isn’t it funny when people want to rebut facts and research merely by repeating the wishful thinking of their fantasy world views? Good grief, that’s the kind of narcissistic solipsism that got our society into this mess.
I saw a few minutes of a morning talk show this summer where some Gen Xers were patting themselves on the back because divorce rates are going down, but I never hear that statistic in the context of how many marriages America has as a percentage of current population, or how long the marriages lasted that now end in divorce. In short, I wonder if the divorce rate is going down simply because fewer people are getting married in the first place.
It’s the same kind of skepticism I feel when people crow about how we have fewer teen moms than we used to (is the abortion rate going up?–perhaps there are fewer teen moms but just as many or more teen pregnancies) or that we watch less TV than we used to (because Internet use has exploded during these recent years?). It doesn’t seem like a victory so much as a trade-off.
As for cohabitation, I’ve known some couples who live together indefinitely who start calling each other “husband” and “wife” after a while–why not, right?–but when they decide to break up those lofty titles disappear just as magically as they materialized by pure will. Convenient.
And while I’m ranting about marriage, I also wonder about the legions of “engaged” people out there who seem to use that as an excuse to cohabitate and act as if they’re already married. It’s like a perpetual state of limbo that, apparently, legitimizes the cohabitation in some minds. It’s been my experience that people aren’t really engaged when they have a ring; they’re engaged when they’ve set a date for the wedding.