August 8, 2012
Marriage, Devastates Children
By Mike McManus
Cohabitation – not marriage – is the dominant way male-female
unions are now formed in the United States. Last year 7.6
million couples were cohabiting – an 18-fold hike since 1960.
Only 2.2 million couples marry in a year.
Cohabitation is the snake in the grass that is killing
While many cohabitants say they are “testing the relationship’s
potential for marriage,” the deeper reasons differ sharply by
Women think that by living with a man, they are taking a step
toward marriage. However, many men cohabit to avoid
a commitment to marriage. They like female companionship,
available sex and sharing of rent.
However, their clash of values prompts most cohabitators to
break up. While two-thirds of those marrying are cohabiting,
that’s only 1.5 million couples.
What happened to the other 6 million? They broke up,
experiencing “premarital divorce” which is as painful as a real
divorce. It is particularly devastating for women, who often
never marry. Indeed, there were only 21 million never-married
Americans in 1970 but 63 million in 2010. That’s a tripling at
a time the population grew only 50%.
No wonder America’s marriage rate has plunged 54% since 1970.
What’s more, cohabiting couples who do marry – are more likely
to divorce than those who remained apart until the wedding.
Various studies say the odds increase by 26% to 65%.
Thus, cohabitation is a snake
which both diverts tens of millions from marrying, and increases
the odds of divorce for those who do marry.
Result: three-fourths of adults
used to be married. Now only half are.
What has been less recognized is that cohabitation is
devastating to children. Most unwed births are to cohabiting
couples. Out-of-wedlock births have jumped from 5% of births in
1960 to 41%, paralleling soaring cohabitation. That figure is
20 times the 2% out-of-wedlock birth rate in Japan!
“Cohabitation has replaced divorce as the main reason for family
instability today. By age 12, about 24% of children will have
experienced the divorce of their married parents, versus 42
percent of children who will live with cohabiting parents,”
according to “Why Marriage Matters,” writes Alysse ElHage in
“Family North Carolina.”
These children are more likely to have behavioral and health
problems, and to fail in school, and are six times more likely
to be poor than those with married parents.
Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project,
describes their plight as “the dark underbelly of cohabitation.
Children in cohabiting households are significantly more likely
to suffer from physical, emotional and sexual abuse than
children in either intact married families or single parent
A question: have you ever heard a sermon opposing cohabitation?
I bet not. I have asked hundreds of pastors in different cities
if they have ever preached on it, and only one hand in 50 goes
Why? Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Flee fornication.” What
is cohabitation but fornication raised to the 100th
power? What could your pastor say, after quoting Scripture?
can’t practice permanence.” Evidence: nine out of ten
couples who begin their union cohabiting – will break up before
or after the wedding.
“There is a better way to test
the relationship” with a premarital inventory and by meeting
with a Mentor Couple to discuss the issues that it surfaces.
My wife and I pioneered training
couples in healthy marriages to be Marriage Mentors in our home
church in the 1990s. During that decade, our Mentor Couples
prepared 288 couples for marriage, 58 of whom decided not to
marry. That’s a huge 20% who discovered they had chosen the
Of the 230 couples who did marry,
we know of only 16 divorces. That’s a 7% failure rate - or a
success rate of 93% over two decades.
That’s virtual marriage
Another reason for soaring
cohabitation is government pays for it. If a woman has a unwed
birth, she is not asked if she is living with the father with
access to his income as if married. Government thinks of her as
a single mom needing welfare, Medicaid, food stamps, and
subsidies costing taxpayers $20,000 a year in 2004 according to
However, if she marries the
father, (in the best interest of all) she loses virtually all
subsidies. Result: unwed births rise and marriages plunge each
I suggest that a Presidential
candidate or a governor might say, “I propose that if any
cohabiting couple with a child decides to marry, government will
not reduce benefits for two years, and after that, they
would be tapered off over 3-4 years.”
That would save billions by
reducing cohabitation and increasing marriage, protecting