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Marriage does not improve children’s development

The Government has previously expressed support for the idea of supporting marriage through the tax system. Among the possible rationales for such a policy is a belief that having married parents, as opposed to cohabiting parents, improves children’s cognitive or social development.


New research published by researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, finds little or no evidence that marriage itself has any effect on children’s social or cognitive development.


Ellen Greaves, Research Economist at the IFS, and one of the authors of the report, said:


 “It is true that children born to married couples are on average more cognitively and emotionally successful than children born to cohabiting couples. But careful analysis shows that this largely reflects the differences between the types of people who decide to get married and those who don’t.


On average those who marry tend to come from more advantaged families, and are more cognitively and emotionally successful themselves, than those who cohabit. This explains the differences in outcomes for children. Marriage itself appears to confer little, if any, benefit in terms of child development”.


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