By Mark Azzara
Oh, how I love it when some aspect of my faith is upheld by non-faith-based research.
The newest study in the World Family Map project, “The Cohabitation-Go-Round: Cohabitation and Family Instability Across the Globe,” concludes that married parents and their children live much more stable lives than do cohabiting couples and the children born to, and/or raised by, them.
The lead author, University of Virginia sociology professor Bruce Wilcox, told Christianity Today that a lot of the intelligentsia “make the mistake of thinking that in Europe, cohabitation and marriage are functional equivalents, but in reality they’re not.”
Throughout Europe, Wilcox said, regardless of education level, couples who marry before having children wind up in far more stable relationships than cohabiting couples who have kids. “Generally speaking, the least educated married families in Europe enjoy more stability than the most educated cohabiting families. That’s not what I would have guessed. I assumed that we’d find some kind of marriage stability premium, but I didn’t realize it would be that pronounced, and that marriage was a more powerful predictor of family stability in Europe than parental education.”
And the same truths about family stability and marriage versus cohabitation generally apply to countries outside Europe.
Wilcox said he uses the data to help his students grasp the importance of marriage. He said we need “to get people behind a consensual cultural message around marriage as the best way to start families and keep kids and parents together.”
You can help. First, read Wilcox’s Q-and-A. Then read the study. And then the next time somebody tells you that cohabitation is no different than marriage, or that cohabitation is a smart way to “get to know each other” before marriage, have the guts to tell them the truth.
All God’s blessings – Mark
Mark Azzara spent 45 years in print journalism, most of them with the Waterbury Republican in Connecticut, where he was a features writer with a special focus on religion at the time of his retirement. He also worked for newspapers in New Haven and Danbury, Conn. At the latter paper, while sports editor, he won a national first-place writing award on college baseball. Azzara also has served as the only admissions recruiter for a small Catholic college in Connecticut and wrote a self-published book on spirituality, “And So Are You.” He is active in his church and facilitates two Christian study groups for men. Azzara grew up in southern California, graduating from Cal State Los Angeles. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Connecticut.