A Look at Unmarried Parents in the U.S. and the U.K.

by Colette Moran

A record number of children are living with unmarried parents in the U.S.

The National Center for Health Statistics says more couples are living together than ever — and the outlook for society isn’t exactly rosy. Believe it or not, almost half of women are choosing cohabitation — not marriage — as their “first union.” Casey Copen, the study’s lead author, thinks this is the new norm for America, since only 23% of the same age group (15-44) is opting to marry first. Asian Americans were the only population that didn’t show a spike in “trial marriages,” while 57% more Hispanics, 43% more whites, and 39% more blacks all felt the cohabiting boom. “It’s kind of a ubiquitous phenomenon now,” Copen tells reporters.

And while more couples are having trouble committing to each other, they don’t seem to have the same trouble agreeing to kids. Almost 20% of women are giving birth in the first year of cohabiting. But unfortunately for these children, very few of their parents are sticking together. After 22 months, most partners go their separate ways. Within the first three years, Copen points out, only 40% of these women make the leap to marriage.

And there was similar bad news in the U.K. about parents who do not get married.

A study by the Marriage Foundation calculates that cohabiting couples who have children are more than twice as likely to split up as those who had tied the knot beforehand.

But of those who do not then go on to get married after having children, only a handful will still be together by the time the child is 16, it claims.

And it predicts that half of children born today will have been through a family break-up by the time they are 16.

The foundation, set up by the High Court judge Sir Paul Coleridge, said that the findings show that the idea of being “happily unmarried” is a myth.

It seems the powers that be in both countries are underplaying the importance of encouraging marriage, and are even enacting policies that are not family-friendly. And they seem to still be ignoring the effects of this on the children. More here and here.