I’m currently researching a book on only children and have come across a great deal of analysis on how children growing up in non-normative family structures are made to feel like outsiders. I can’t help but wonder if the psychological stress of being raised by cohabiting parents is akin to the experience of being an (oft-stereotyped) only child, at least in the upper economic brackets.
In Sweden, where it’s become normal to parent without a marriage certificate, kids with unmarried parents don’t feel this way. But here, as long as marriage is worshipped, supported by friends and family and strangers and the state, as long as kids who are inside a married family know that they are what’s normal and that those other kids aren’t, there will be distress. Nobody wants to feel like his or her family is an experiment. Or that other people get to be supported by stability they are lacking.
Nona Willis Aronowitz notes the obvious:
This study seems like the ultimate validation for "family values" conservatives—until you look a little closer. As marriage scholar Stephanie Coontz points out, "cohabitation and out-of-wedlock childbearing is as much a symptom of the instability of children's lives as it is a cause of it." … Income is a huge factor in family stability, and financial security is a huge factor in people's marriage decisions. So it makes sense that the kids of cohabiting couples, who are more likely to be poor, may have a harder family life.
An earlier look at the economics of cohabitation here.