In an essay for the Institute for Family Studies last December, called “Even for Rich Kids, Marriage Matters,” University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox reported that children in high-income households who experienced family breakups don’t fare as well emotionally, psychologically, educationally or, in the end, economically as their two-parent-family peers.
That’s an interesting result because the emotional, psychological and educational problems of these kids can’t be blamed on the usual whipping boy, i.e. poverty. But there’s more research:
Abuse, behavioral problems and psychological issues of all kinds, such as developmental behavior problems or concentration issues, are less common for children of married couples than for cohabiting or single parents, according to a 2003 Centers for Disease Control study of children’s health. The causal pathways are about as clear as those from smoking to cancer. (Source)
So it’s not just about having two adults in the home, because children of cohabiting parents don’t do as well as children of married couples.
A lot of people get defensive when they see research like this. In fact, they often delve deep into denialism, because many people are cohabiting and they don’t like their lifestyle being challenged. They take it personally, as if they’re being accused of being a bad parent. We need to move beyond such emotionalism and focus on the scientific realities exposed by decades of research.