Cohabitation worse than divorce?

A recent article in the Washington Times reviews two new research reports that claim cohabitation is worse than divorce. Let’s start by noting that each researching organization has an iron in the “marriage” fire. The American Values’ Center for Marriage and Families and the National Marriage Project are not exactly unbiased. The irony is that traditional conservative groups conducting these studies seem to be advocating for divorce over cohabitation.

The “great recession” has an increased number of married couples postponing divorce or cohabiting during divorce proceedings. Couples cite the need to pool resources and the fact that cohabiting makes child care easier.

What’s wrong with cohabitation? Cohabitation can delay the normal grieving process children need to process the stress of a marriage break-up of their parents. It can make the whole change more confusing as well—for adults as well as children. It can also give one of the ex-spouses false hopes of reunification. Cohabitation can also muddy the legal waters as to when the exact date of separation occurred. If couples do decide to tread the perilous waters of cohabitation during the breakup process, the parties should file for legal separation as soon as possible in order to make clear when the marriage was over.

The Washington Times article ( states that, “children aged 6 to 11, about 16 percent of children in cohabiting homes had “serious emotional problems.” This was true of 4 percent of children living with married biological or adoptive parents.” But, why isn’t the study comparing cohabiting divorced households to non-cohabiting divorced households?

Cohabiting after divorce creates a complex situation that may or may not make things more complicated for children who are already grappling with a stressful situation. However, these studies hardly seem to prove their thesis and the jury is out on whether cohabitation or divorce is the better of two evils.

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