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The Implications of Cohabitation for Children's Well-Being.

Publication Year: 
Personal Author: 
Manning, W. D.
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The increasing number of cohabiting couples with children indicates a need to examine the effects of the family structure on child well-being. Although research has compared outcomes for children being raised by married and unmarried parents, few studies consider the dynamics of the relationship between the child's parents. This article reviews the current literature about cohabitation as a family structure, the characteristics of cohabitation and cohabiting couples that could affect children, the impact of the stability of cohabitation arrangements, and child outcomes. In general, the findings indicate that children in cohabiting families have similar outcomes to children in married parent families in the areas of social well-being, school achievement, emotional and behavior problems and father involvement. School achievement is higher among some children in cohabiting families than some children in single parent households. Children in cohabiting families also are less likely to receive public assistance than children living with one parent. Future research should identify variables that affect the relationship between marital status and child outcomes and take a more individual approach to studying the effects of cohabitation. In addition, the research should examine the entire experience of cohabitation to study the stability of the structure over time, rather than comparing cohabitation and marriage at one time in a child's life. Finally, research should investigate the impact of public policy on cohabitation and child well-being. Numerous references.

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