The Home Front

Politics, culture, and American life — from the family perspective.

Cohabitate Much


Rich Lowry continues the Wilcox marriage conversation from earlier this week. He writes:


Our pop culture tends to celebrate what one sociologist calls “the carousel of intimate relationships” that adults are constantly hopping on and off. Although Modern Family has replaced Leave It to Beaver as the TV-sitcom paradigm of American family life, children have more trouble in complex households formed by people unrelated by birth or marriage. “Children in stepfamilies,” according to the study, “are more likely to experience school failure, delinquency, teenage pregnancy, and incarceration than children growing up in intact, married families.”

Children turn out to benefit from the structure, rituals, and identity that come with a lasting marriage between their parents. And the very act of committing to the norms of marriage makes adults better marital partners and parents. One of the more affecting pieces of data in this study is that fathers committed to marriage are more likely to hug their children than fathers who aren’t. One of the more disturbing is that children in cohabiting households are more likely to be abused than children in either intact, married families or single-parent families.

The advantages of marriage run much deeper than merely having two adults in the house. It is an irreplaceable source of social capital. As we move away from it and social scientists study the consequences, we learn more about why it was such a timeless institution — once upon a time.


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