What Happens When Mom and Dad Aren’t Married?
The overall structure of families is changing, and more and more children are living with unmarried, cohabitating parents. The affect of single parenthood on children is widely discussed; but you’re not single, you’re just not married. Are you concerned about how your relationship is affecting your child? In this article, we will look at the statistics, challenges, and ways to make it work as unmarried parents.
The Facts and Challenges
Many parents put off being married because of financial or other factors. While studies in the past focused mostly on the statistical affect of single parents on their children, as the dynamic of the family has changed, so have the facts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children born to unmarried women cohabitating with a male partner jumped to 22% in 2010, up from just 12% in 2002. While most children who live with unmarried parents will spend a considerable portion of their formative years with both biological parents residing in the household, by age 12, two-thirds of these same children will see their parents separate, according to an article by the Atlantic Black Star.
According to David Popenoe, PhD, professor of sociology at Rutgers University, parents who are unmarried are 50% more likely to break up, and have much higher rates of spousal abuse. Popenoe also states that children will “have fewer economic resources, receive less parenting from their fathers, and face a much greater risk of parental break-up, leading to two to three times the risk of serious social problems when they become adolescents and young adults, such as juvenile delinquency, and teenage, out-of-wedlock childbearing.”
Making It Work
While these statistics may seem like children of unmarried parents are cursed with poor future, they do not have to be a reality for your family. It is entirely possible to make an unmarried partnership work.
The first thing you should do is ensure that all of the legal paperwork is handled correctly. Put both parents’ names on the birth certificate; and write a last will and testament, spelling out your final wishes concerning your children and your assets. Make sure you each have a power of attorney document, giving each partner the rights to make medical decisions and other legal choices; and if necessary, add each other to life insurance policies and bank accounts.
There is no one right answer on how to make a cohabitating relationship work, but there is hope. As W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project says, “Any relationship built on love and respect will thrive. And while the odds may be stacked more in favor of marriage, plenty of cohabitating couples live happily ever after without tying the knot.”