Since the sexual revolution, the incidence of cohabitation has exploded in the United States, with a more recent and concerning rise in the number of cohabitating adults with children. While the growth of cohabitation during the 1960s and 1970s can be attributed to a general anti-marriage sentiment, today’s attitudes towards cohabitation are framed a bit differently. Since many of today’s twenty-somethings are children of divorce, they view cohabitation as a testing ground for the longevity of the relationship. Unfortunately, social science has proven that the opposite is actually true, with cohabitating couples who eventually marry being 50 percent more likely to divorce.
Beyond the increased risk of divorce, cohabitation also increases the risk of domestic violence for women, as well as an increased risk of physical and sexual abuse of children. Couple this fact with these recent statistics from the University of Wisconsin:
- 52 percent of non-marital births are to cohabitating couples, up from 29 percent in the early 1980s and 39 percent in the early 1990s;
- Two years after the baby is born, only 69 percent of cohabitating couples were either still living together or had married, compared to 94 percent of married parents;
The Boston Globe indicates that these trends demonstrate a move by the United States towards the experience in northern Europe and Scandinavia, where cohabitation accounts for most non-marital births. Though the Globe neglected to mention it, these European trends follow a liberalization of marriage laws through same-sex marriage and civil unions.