Shacking up bad for adults, kids

Michael Hartwig

It didn’t take a million dollar study to tell us more couples are shacking up. The U.S. Census Report found the number of unmarried couples living together increased 84 percent from 1990 to 2000.

Apparently many couples believe the best way to make sure they’ve found their soul mate is to take a test drive by living together. After all, who buys a car without taking it for a spin? They believe if it works out they will go ahead and get married.

If not, both partners simply walk away from the relationship, no harm done.

Unfortunately, major studies have found living together is the death nell for the relationship. Half of all couples living together breakup before marriage, and if they do marry, 73 percent of them divorce. That’s double the rate of divorce for a couple that didn’t live together before marriage.

The byproduct of the separation rate among live-ins is the number of kids being raised by single parents. The census found a 19 percent increase in single parent homes.

This is a huge problem when you consider that single parent kids are twice as likely NOT to graduate from high school than two parent kids.

Single parent kids show higher rates of aggression, drug abuse and lower grades than do two parent kids.

This isn’t to say that every single parent kid is headed for skid row, it just points to the fact that they have some additional hurdles to jump.

Evidence in hundreds of studies shows that the traditional model of marriage is the most effective.

The census teaches us that we need to work hard on our relationship with our spouse. There is more at stake than just our personal happiness. Our kids and community depend on us.

We also need to help single parents. Teachers and community groups need to go out of their way to support a struggling single mom or single dad in raising their kids.

And, we need to warn our kids about the dangers of shacking up and the difficulties of raising a child alone.

Michael Hartwig, Ph.D.

Vice President

Marriage Matters of Iowa

Iowa Family Policy Center

Pleasant Hill, IA