For Kids, Parental Cohabitation and Marriage Are Not Interchangeable

Marriage is best.  The Institute for Family Studies wrote this article:

For Kids, Parental Cohabitation and Marriage Are Not Interchangeable

 

An article in this month’s issue of Parents magazine explores the new “norm” of unmarried childbearing—the increasing number of younger Americans who are choosing to have and raise children in cohabiting unions instead of marriage.

The article features a few happily unmarried couples raising children, most of whom echo a popular Millennial view of marriage as essentially unnecessary to parenting.

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“Traditional marriage is beautiful and wonderful, but it’s not important for me because a wedding is what you do when you start your life with someone,” said cohabiting mom Allison, who is raising two kids with her boyfriend of four years. “With two kids, a dog and a cat, we’re already living it.”

Jennifer, a single mom who recently ended a nine-year cohabiting relationship with the father of her three year-old-son, said prior to their split, she and her ex were “secure in our relationship, and no wedding, piece of jewelry, or common last name was going to make us feel any more so.”

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While some cohabiting adults seem happy enough to live together without marriage, what about their children? It is an important question considering that about one in four American children today are born to cohabiting parents. According to Child Trends, the number of cohabiting couples with children under 18 has nearly tripled since the late 1990s—increasing from 1.2 million in 1996 to 3.1 million in 2014. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that the majority of recent non-marital births (58 percent) are to unmarried women living with their child’s father.

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On the surface, the trend away from divorced or unwed mothers raising kids on their own, toward more children living with both of their parents, seems like a positive one for children raised outside of marriage. However, when it comes to child well-being, cohabiting unions more closely resemble single motherhood than marriage. As eighteen noted family scholars stated in a 2011 report from the National Marriage Project, “cohabitation is not the functional equivalent of marriage,” and it is “the largely unrecognized threat to the quality and stability of children’s lives today.”

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For children, the differences between cohabiting and married parents extend far beyond the lack of a marriage license. Compared to children of married parents, those with cohabiting parents are more likely to experience the breakup of their families, be exposed to “complex” family forms, live in poverty, suffer abuse, and have negative psychological and educational outcomes.

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Unstable Unions: One of the major sources of inequality between cohabiting and married parenthood is that cohabiting couples tend to split up at higher rates than married couples. According to the 2013 National Marriage Project report, Knot Yet, children of cohabiting parents in their twenties are three times more likely to experience the dissolution of their family than children born to married parents. The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCW), meanwhile, finds that “nearly half of parents who are cohabiting at the time of their child’s birth break up within five years, compared to only 20 percent of married parents.”

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Complex Families: Because of the fragile nature of cohabiting unions, children born to cohabiting parents are also more likely to transition in and out of new—and often confusing—family forms after their parents split up. According to the FFCW study, nearly 40 percent of unmarried mothers will cohabit with a new partner after their relationship with their child’s father ends, and 14 percent will have another child with a new partner.

As Sara McLanahan and Christopher Jencks explain in a recent article, the instability and complexity of cohabiting unions “have important consequences for children’s home environment and the quality of the parenting they receive. Both the departure of a father and the arrival of a mother’s new partner disrupt family routines and are stressful for most children, regardless of whether the father is married to their mother or merely cohabiting with her.”

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Child Poverty: Children raised in cohabiting unions are significantly more likely to experience poverty than those whose parents are married. In fact, cohabiting parents are second only to single mothers in terms of child poverty rates. According to a study by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University, children in married-couple households have a poverty rate of 11 percent, compared to a 47 percent poverty rate for children in cohabiting opposite-sex couple households, and a 48 percent child poverty rate in single-mother households.

One reason for the higher poverty rates among children in cohabiting unions has to do with pre-existing differences between cohabiting and married parents. According to a Child Trends analysis, cohabiting parents tend to have less education, lower incomes, and less secure employment than married parents. Also, because cohabiting unions are more likely to dissolve than marriages, children in cohabiting unions are at a greater risk of spending time in a single-parent family, which significantly increases their poverty risk.

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Child Abuse: While children living with their unmarried biological mother and her live-in boyfriend face a higher risk of suffering child abuse than kids in any other type of family, children who live with their own cohabiting parents are more likely to be abused than children of married parents.

Data from the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect shows that children living with biological cohabiting parents are over four times as likely to be physically, sexually, and emotionally abused as those living with their own married parents.

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Negative Life Outcomes: On average, children living with cohabiting biological parents fare worse on several social, psychological, and educational outcomes than children born to married parents, even after controlling for factors like race, household income, and parental education.

According to the National Marriage Project, children in cohabiting families are more likely to use drugs, suffer from depression, and drop out of school than children from married-parent families. While some of the negative effects of cohabitation on children can be partly explained by their parents’ lack of resources, according to W. Bradford Wilcox, “cohabitation has an independent negative impact on children.”

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While cohabiting parenthood may look like marriage in that it provides children with both a mom and a dad, it is a more fragile and less safe family union than marriage that robs children of a wide range of social, psychological, and educational benefits. As Wilcox has written here, “No other institution reliably connects two parents, and their money, talent, and time, to their children in the way that marriage does.”

Despite the popularity and convenience of cohabitation, marriage is still the best setting to have and raise children. Now more than ever, we need to do a better job of communicating that truth to the next generation.

 

 

Why Family Matters

Did you know that children in single-parent homes are more likely to be poor? In 1964, only 7% of births in America were outside marriage. Today, this number has climbed to more than 40%.

Marriage reduces the probability of child poverty by 80% and children raised by married parents are more likely to avoid risks that would hinder their ability to thrive like lower educational attainment, delinquency, non-marital pregnancy and childbearing. Marriage is also one of the top factors in promoting human happiness.

 

Sex is cheap. Ease in sexual access has created an earthquake in the contemporary “mating market.”

The fall-out – failed relationships, wasted time, and a longer and more uncertain pathway to marriage – was made possible by our shared technologies more than by fissures in politics or religion.

Adolescents who regularly participate in religious activities, pray, and/or place greater importance on religion in their lives are less likely to engage in high-risk behavior such as substance abuse and sexual activity. In addition, they are less likely to exhibit anti-social behavior such as vandalism and delinquency.

The intact family appears to act as a protective factor against substance abuse among young people. Living with married biological or adoptive parents is associated with a lower risk of adolescent substance abuse, including smoking, drinking, and drug use.

Fathers’ involvement in their children’s lives contributes to a variety of positive outcomes for children and youth, including higher academic performance and a decreased likelihood of anti-social behavior, early sexual activity, teen pregnancy, and substance abuse.

Marital status is linked to economic prospects. Compared with unmarried peers, married individuals tend to pursue practices that can lead to greater financial stability and wealth accumulation, such as home ownership, investment in stocks, and maintaining a savings account.

 

 

Sexual Abuse in General, in Churches, in Utah, and among Latter-day Saints

A very sad topic.  We should do all we can to reduce abuse.

To that end, it is helpful to be familiar as possible with the relevant facts, myths, tendencies, percentages, and other variables.

A very small fraction of abuse occurs in churches.  Most happens in families and schools.

 

From the Institute for Family Studies:  For Kids, Parental Cohabitation and Marriage Are Not Interchangeable

Abuse is most common in single-parent households.  Abuse is more common in families of cohabitation than in married families, but less than in single-parent households.

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Child Abuse: While children living with their unmarried biological mother and her live-in boyfriend face a higher risk of suffering child abuse than kids in any other type of family, children who live with their own cohabiting parents are more likely to be abused than children of married parents.

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Data from the Fourth National Incidence Study (NIS-4) of Child Abuse and Neglect shows that children living with biological cohabiting parents are over four times as likely to be physically, sexually, and emotionally abused as those living with their own married parents.

If you click on the NIS-4 link above you can review three reports that I’ll link below.

Supplementary Analyses of Race Differences in Child Maltreatment Rates in the NIS-4.  

The authors examined two possible explanations for why the NIS–4 found statistically reliable race differences in rates of some categories of child maltreatment, in contrast to the findings of previous NIS cycles. They concluded that the finding is at least partly a consequence of the greater precision of the NIS–4 estimates and partly due to the enlarged gap between Black and White children in economic well-being. Income, or socioeconomic status, is the strongest predictor of maltreatment rates, but since the time of the NIS–3, incomes of Black families have not kept pace with the incomes of White families.

Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4): Report to Congress.

Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4): Report to Congress, Executive Summary. 

Biggest problem:  single parent with live-in partner.

“Children living with their married biological parents universally had the
lowest rate, whereas those living with a single parent who had a cohabiting partner in the household had the highest rate in all maltreatment categories. Compared to children living with married biological parents, those whose single parent had a live-in partner had more than 8 times the rate of maltreatment overall, over 10 times the rate of abuse, and nearly 8 times the rate of neglect.”

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Parents, not clergy, are abusing nearly all the kids.  This doesn’t mean abuse doesn’t happen in churches.  It does.  But please keep a sense of proportion.

“The majority of all children countable under the Harm Standard (81%) were maltreated by their biological parents.  This held true both for the abused children (64% were abused by biological parents) and for those neglected (92% were neglected by biological parents).”

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Schools refer most abuse cases.  Yet, some schools bar staff from directly reporting to CPS.

“Although schools predominated as a source of recognition for maltreated
children, 20% or less of the maltreated children recognized at schools received CPS investigation. One factor that may contribute to the low investigation rate for school recognized children is school policy barring staff from making direct reports to CPS.

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In the Sentinel Definitions Survey, 20% of school sentinels indicated that their schools do not permit them to report directly to CPS. However, other factors also contribute to low investigation rates for the school-recognized children, because even when agencies permitted direct reports, fewer sentinels in schools said they had reported a case (54%) compared to staff in health agencies (77%) or law enforcement (87%).

Similar patterns emerged in the previous NIS cycles. To repeat the earlier recommendation: better working relationships should be forged between CPS agencies and schools, capitalizing on the unique role of school professionals as front-line observers.

Links to more data on this topic:

Rape Stats, Wikipedia

Sexual Violence Myths and Facts

Scope of the Problem:  Statistics

Perpetrators of Sexual Violence:  Statistics

Sexual Assault and Rape Statistics, Laws and Reports

(Catholic) Priests Commit no more Abuse than Other Males.

U.S. Department of Justice Sexual Abuse Statistics.  

Rapes May be Most Common in Rural Areas.

Child Sexual Abuse in Protestant Christian Congregations: A Descriptive Analysis of Offense and Offender Characteristics

Data Shed Light on Child Sexual Abuse by Protestant Clergy. 

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Unfortunately, the LDS Church has been affected by abuse.   I feel it’s important to gather all the data on the topic and maintain a sense of proportion.  The Church has always spoken out on this topic.  And teaches the benefits of moral living at every turn.

Are kids abused more frequently in LDS homes or meetinghouses?    In Protestant homes or meetinghouses?

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I know of no data on this topic that specifies which religions have what amount of abuse.  It’s not available.   I’ve looked for it.  Insurance companies — who insure in cases of lawsuits — don’t release their data.

What we should strive for is to maintain strong marriages and families.  Raise confident, discerning children.  And be cautious with whom are kids affiliate, where they are, etc.  Vigilance is essential.

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A few variables that contribute to UT’s high number of reported sexual abuse cases:

  • UT, unlike many states, investigates allegations involving those under 17
  • UT has 22 centers; NV has 2;   UT and NV have nearly equal populations
  • UT engages their communities, resulting in more reported abuse

Addressing Utah’s Child Sexual Abuse Problem

“In other states, DCFS will not investigate any alleged sexual abuse committed by individuals under the age of 17. In Utah, approximately 35 percent of offenses were committed by minors between the ages of 10-17 in 2015, according to DCFS data.

“This is a thing that is unique to Utah,” Houser said. “Our numbers a higher because we treat those numbers differently than most other states.”

The increase in incidents may also be an indicator that progress is actually being made in combating the high rate of sex crimes in both Iron County and Utah statewide, according to Iron County Children’s Justice Center Director Stephanie Furnival.

Furnival noted their overall case load has increased significantly over the last few years. That doesn’t necessarily mean there are more offenses though, just that more offenses are being addressed by the center.

There are currently 22 Children’s Justice Centers throughout the state. Nevada, which has roughly the same population as Utah, only has two facilities.

“The fact that Utah has 22 and Nevada has two shows the difference of why Utah has the highest reported numbers – it’s because it is actually being addressed,” Furnival said. “Utah really leads in regards to their response to child abuse in the entire nation.”

Furnival has focused heavily on increasing the amount of community awareness. With each community event or training, Furnival said parents are becoming more willing to reach out if they believe their child has been sexually abused because they are more familiar with the CJC and the resources they offer.

Washington County Children’s Justice Center Director Shelly Teeples noticed a similar trend.”

The Family and the Protection of Children

Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox, (Ph.D from Princeton University, research fellowships at Yale University and the Brookings Institution) presents new international research from the World Family Map 2014 showing how family characteristics may affect child development and well-being including health outcomes and child mortality rates.

Recent trends:  retreat from marriage, parenting, and fertility

All these data were controlled for parents’ age, education, income, and background:

  • 1/2 of the worlds’ countries are below replacement
  • more kids are born without 2 parents and outside of marriage (parents much more likely to break up before 15 years old)

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  • males in 1-parent homes:  much more commonly incarcerated
  • females in 1-parent homes:  much more teenage pregnancy
  • kids in poverty with 2 parents: much better economic success than kids in poverty with 1 parent

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  • drug use, suicide rates, and repeating grades in school were much higher with 1 parent
  • literacy, health indicators, and mortaily are all lower in homes with 1 parent

2 parents:  more time, $, more affection, kinship support, and stable family context

Brad Wilcox: When Marriage Disappears

This isn’t the LDS EFY speaker, Brad Wilcox. This is a non-member who teaches at the U of Virginia. This guy is a sharp sociologist.

Marriage and family facilitates faith, among so much else that is good.

Watch a few of his videos:

Short video by Prager University:

The Good Dad: The Transformative Power of Fatherhood for Men and Children.

W. Bradford Wilcox, associate professor of Sociology and director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, remarks on marriage, economics, and poverty during a plenary panel at the World Congress of Families IX, October 29, 2015.