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Cohabitation: Ten Facts
A. Patrick Schneider II, M.D., M.P.H., who holds boards in family and geriatric medicine and who received a Masters in Public Health from Harvard University, is in private practice in Lexington, Kentucky.
"Cohabitation -- it's training for divorce." -- Chuck Colson (1995)
1. Cohabitation is growing: 35 to 40 years ago cohabitation was rare; it was socially taboo. Growth by decade was: 1960s (up 19 percent), 1970s (up 204 percent), 1980s (up 80 percent), 1990s (up 66 percent), but up only 7.7 percent between 2000 and 2004. All told, cohabitation is up eleven-fold (U.S. Census Bureau, "Unmarried-Couple Households, by Presence of Children: 1960 to Present," Table UC-1, June 12, 2003).
2. Relationships are unstable: One-sixth of cohabiting couples stay together for only three years; one in ten survives five or more years (Bennett, W.J., The Broken Hearth: Reversing the Moral Collapse of the American Family, 2001).
3. Greater risk of divorce: The rate of divorce among those who cohabit prior to marriage is nearly double (39 percent vs. 21 percent) that of couples who marry without prior cohabitation (ibid.).
4. Women suffer disproportionately: Cohabiting women often end up with the responsibilities of marriage -- particularly when it comes to caring for children -- without the legal protection (ibid.), while contributing more than 70 percent of the relationship's income (Crouse, J.C., "Cohabitation: Consequences for Mothers and Children," presentation at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Oct. 11-14, 2004, U.N. Tenth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family).
5. Greater risk of STD: Men in cohabiting relationships are four times more likely to be unfaithful than husbands (ibid.). In 1960 there were only three STDs; now there are two dozen that are incurable. Cases of STD have tripled in the past six years. The rate of STD among cohabiting couples is six times higher than among married women (Crouse, J.C., Gaining Ground: A Profile of American Women in the Twentieth Century, 2000).
6. Greater risk of substance abuse and psychiatric problems: A UCLA survey of 130 published studies found that marriages preceded by cohabitation were more prone to drug and alcohol problems (Coombs, R.H., "Marital Status and Personal Well-Being: A Literature Review," Family Relations, Jan. 1991). Depression is three times more likely in cohabiting couples than among married couples (Robbins, L., Rieger, D., Psychiatric Disorders in America, 1990).
7. Higher poverty rates: Cohabitors who never marry have 78 percent less wealth than the continuously married; cohabitors who have been divorced or widowed once have 68 percent less wealth (Cohabitation Facts website).
8. Children suffer: The poverty rate among children of cohabiting couples is five fold greater than the rate among children in married-couple households (Bennett, op. cit.). Compared to children of married biological parents, children age 12-17 with cohabiting parents are six times more likely to exhibit emotional and behavioral problems (Booth, A., Crouter, A.C., eds., Just Living Together: Implications of Cohabitation on Families, Children and Social Policy, 2002). Likewise, adolescents from cohabiting households are 122 percent more likely to be expelled from school and 90 percent more likely to have a low GPA (Manning, W.D., Lamb, K.A., "Adolescent Well-Being in Cohabiting, Married and Single-Parent Families," Journal of Marriage and Family, Nov. 2003). Children find themselves without grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins; the family tree is pruned (Bennett, op. cit.).
9. Society pays: The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with two million souls in federal and state prisons and local jails. In 1980 the figure was just over 500,000 (Bennett, op. cit.). Seventy percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions are from fatherless homes (Drake, T., "The Father Factor: Crime on Increase in ‘Dad Free' Zones," National Catholic Register, Jan. 2007). Three-fourths of children involved in criminal activity were from cohabiting households (Crouse, op. cit.).
10. Cohabitation breeds abuse, violence, and murder: Abuse of children: Rates of serious abuse are lowest in intact families; six times higher in step families; 14 times higher in always-single-mother families; 20 times higher in cohabiting biological-parent families; and 33 times higher when the mother is cohabiting with a boyfriend who is not the biological father (Crouse, op. cit.). Abuse of women: Compared to a married woman, a cohabiting woman is three times more likely to experience physical aggression (Salari, S.M., Baldwin, B.M., "Verbal, Physical, and Injurious Aggression Among Intimate Couples Over Time," Journal of Family Issues, May 2002), and nine times more likely to be murdered (Shackelford, T.K., "Cohabitation, Marriage, and Murder: Woman-Killing by Male Romantic Partners," Aggressive Behavior, vol. 27, 2001). This data is consistent with similar data on children.
Cohabitation is bad for men, worse for women, and horrible for children. It is a deadly toxin to marriage, family, and culture. With great insight and wisdom Pope Benedict XVI has recently written in Sacramentum Caritatis (March 13, 2007) that among the four "fundamental values" that are "not negotiable," second only to respect for human life is "the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman."
© 2007 New Oxford Review. All Rights Reserved. September 2007, Volume LXXIV, Number 8. www.newoxfordreview.org