The author reviews literature from 2000-2010 that addresses the relationship between marriage and children’s well-being.
1. Children residing in two-biological-parent married families tend to enjoy better outcomes than do their counterparts raised in other family forms. Children living with two biological married parents experience better educational, social, cognitive, and behavioral outcomes than do other children, on average
2. Anything other than 2 parent married biological parents appears to be associated with poorer outcomes . Any variations in well-being among children living outside of two-biological-parent married families (e.g., married step, cohabiting, and single- parent families) is comparatively low and often negligible.
3. The benefits associated with marriage not only are evident in the short-term but also endure through adulthood
4. Marriage er se does not seem to confer advantages for children, as children in married stepfamilies fare worse than do those in two-biological-parent married families, instead appearing similar to those in single-mother families Similarly, biological parentage per se does not account for the advantages that children enjoy in two-biological-parent married families; children in two-biological-parent cohabiting families have worse outcomes, on average. It is the COMBINATION of ‘two-biological-parent’ and ‘married’ that gives kids the best outcomes, on average
5. Family stability is as important for child well-being as family structure and has both immediate and long-term benefits for children. Family instability during high school has been linked to young adult outcomes, including high school graduation, college enrollment, smoking and drinking, and sexual initiation
6. Children and adolescents who experience parental divorce tend to exhibit poorer outcomes than their counterparts who remain in stable, two-biological-parent married families. This pattern of findings has been evident across multiple domains of well-being
7. Thus, although stable living arrangements tend to promote child well-being, not all stable family forms are beneficial for children.Stepfamilies face considerable challenges to effective functioning, specifically, the renegotiation of family roles . The negative effects on children’s outcomes seemingly accumulate with each transition into or out of marriage
8. Similarly, adolescents fared worse, on average, in stable cohabiting than in married stepfamilies. The more time spent in cohabiting stepfamilies, the greater was the likelihood of marijuana use.
“Research has demonstrated that neither marriage nor residing with two biological parents is in itself a sufficient condition, as children in married stepfamilies, complex two-biological-parent married families, and two-biological-parent cohabiting families fare worse, on average, than do their counterparts in simple two-biological-parent married families …The growing emphasis on the dynamics of family experiences has revealed that the types and timing of family transitions are linked to child outcomes. Cohabitation and marital transitions have unique effects on children; stability in cohabiting families is not necessarily beneficial for children “
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