There is a growing consensus that the number of parental union transitions matters for children above and beyond family structure, with children being more likely to thrive in stable families and more likely to flounder in unstable ones.
Sociologist Andrew Cherlin noted in 'The Marriage-Go-Round', family instability is a cause for concern “because it may increase children’s behavioral and emotional problems. Simply put, some children seem to have difficulty adjusting to a series of parents and parents’ partners moving in and out of their home.”
With cohabitation on the rise, 'the Cohabitation-go-round' study found that in Europe and the United State that children born to cohabiting and especially single parents experience higher levels of family instability in the first 12 years of their lives. Using data from 100 countries, the study found that family instability is higher in countries where more children are born to single mothers and cohabiting couples.
National-level data from 68 countries shows that the growth of cohabitation is associated with increases in family instability. In other words, marriage seems to be associated with more family stability for children across much of the world, whereas cohabitation is typically associated with more instability.
- Cherlin, Andrew 2010: The Marriage-go-round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today (New York: Random House LLC): p.5.
- DeRose, L. Lyons-Amos, M.; Wilcox, W.B.; and Huarcaya, G. 2017: The Cohabitation-go-round: Cohabitation and Family Stability Across the Globe, Social Trends Institute, World Family Map 2017.
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