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'Why Marriage Matters'

New report from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. Given the unique impacts fatherless families have on boys, the results are worth reviewing.

Some of the points:


* Divorces involving children have largely returned to pre-"divorce revolution" levels. Specifically, about 23 percent of children whose parents married in the early 1960s divorced by the time the children turned 10. More recently, slightly more than 23 percent of children whose parents married in 1997 divorced by the time the kids turned 10, down from a high of more than 27 percent in the mid-1970s.

* Family instability for U.S. children overall continues to increase. The data show that 66 percent of 16-year-olds were living with both parents in the early 1980s, compared to just 55 percent of 16-year-olds in the early 2000s. This shift seems to be due in part to more children being born outside of marriage - especially to cohabiting couples - and the fact that these non-marital unions are overall much less stable.

* Cohabitation is playing a growing role in children's lives. Children are now more likely to be exposed to a cohabiting union than to a parental divorce. The report indicates that 24 percent of kids born to married parents will see their own parents divorce or separate by age 12, while 42 percent of kids will experience a parental cohabitation by age 12.

* Children born to cohabiting unions are much more likely to experience a parental breakup compared to children born to married couples. In the U.S., the report finds that the breakup rate is 170 percent higher for children born to cohabiting couples up to age 12. Even in Sweden, children born to cohabiting couples are 70 percent more likely to see parents separate by age 15, compared to children born to married parents.

* Not only is cohabitation less stable, it is more dangerous for children. Federal data show that children are at least three times more likely to be physically, sexually or emotionally abused in cohabiting households, compared to children in intact, biological-married-parent homes. They are also significantly more likely to experience delinquency, drug use, and school failure.

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