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Cohabitation eclipses divorce as key risk factor for children

New research in America has claimed that the rise in the number of cohabiting households with children is linked to increased instability in children's lives, and to a range of negative outcomes for children.


The report was co-sponsored by the Institute for American Values and the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. Its key findings include:


  • Divorces involving children have largely returned to pre-"divorce revolution" levels. Specifically, about 23% of children whose parents married in the early 1960s divorced by the time the children turned ten. More recently, slightly more than 23% of children whose parents married in 1997 divorced by the time the kids turned ten, down from a high of more than 27% in the mid-1970s.
  • Family instability for U.S. children overall continues to increase. The data shows that 66% of 16-year-olds were living with both parents in the early 1980s, compared to just 55% of 16-year-olds in the early 2000s.
  • Cohabitation is playing a growing role in children's lives. Children are now more likely to be exposed to a cohabiting union than to a parental divorce.
  • Children born to cohabiting unions are much more likely to experience a parental breakup compared to children born to married couples.


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