Cohabitation is not Marriage Practice
Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, says young men and women in their 20′s today suffer from the effects of modern hedonistic lifestyles that have shattered traditional family values and replaced them with a relationship wasteland instead. Wilcox’s research has led him to conclude that today’s â€œspring-break sexual liberationâ€ promises only increasing costs for the practitioners and their unfortunate families.
Wilcox states that modern culture in the United States has created a â€œhormone gapâ€ where young singles endure a near decade of sexual activity before they approach the social commitment of marriage. Wilcox points out that while puberty and sexual activity now occur at younger ages, the age when people get married has steadily grown later, with men averaging age 28 and women age 26.
The new dynamic in society has disrupted the traditional courtship narrative sequence of dating, engagement, marriage and children (in that order). The result is a â€œrelationship wastelandâ€ where cohabitation has evolved to become the new â€œnarrative.â€ Even though current advertising and culture promotes happy young singles enjoying a lifestyle of casual sexual relationships, the reality is more likely to be sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancy. No one really expects teens and young adults to be celibate between 18 and 28, instead, a culture of cohabitation has evolved nationwide. The number of people cohabiting in the U.S. increased exponentially from 1960 to the point where there were 14 times as many cohabiting couples in 2007. The practice is so widespread that 40% of dependant children in the nation will experience life in a cohabitation household. Cohabitation does lead to marriages in some cases, but for most it is just a low-commitment alternative to marriage.
While cohabitation might be a fact of modern life, it does not mean the results are desirable. Cohabitation life relationships based on low levels of commitment fall apart far more easily than relationships bound by marriage. This fact is borne out by the numbers when you consider that 75% of children in cohabiting homes will experience their parents splitting up before they reach age 16. Only 33% of kids from married homes will suffer the same fate.
Marriage definitely gets better scores than cohabitation when it comes to raising children. Marriage cements the family bond of two parents raising a child together and provides the setting for a father to get involved in his children’s lives. Without a father in the home, it has been shown that children experience more poverty, delinquency and academic failure.
The age that people get married was also shown to affect the longevity of a relationship. Teenage marriages have statistically higher divorce rates and people who get married above age 29 must often overcome unrealistic ideals and inflexible habits in their marriages. The ideal age for a lasting marriage seems to be a narrow window from age 21 to 26.
It was also shown that a series of low-commitment, cohabiting relationships does not really train a person for a lasting marriage. Wilcox found that experience with cohabitation seemed to actually train people for divorce and that they would be much less likely to remain committed in a marriage later on. Conversely, cohabitation by couples who were engaged to be married was not shown to affect overall marital stability.
While Wilcox is not trying to deny the inevitable changes that occur in our society, his findings do show that cohabitation is not a replacement for traditional courtship and impedes the development of family values like responsibility, commitment and sacrifice. It would also be safe to say that cohabitation offers no place for children.