Studies of the impact of cohabitation on marriage and outcomes for children must consider all of the alternative family structures available to low-income persons, including single parenthood. This chapter analyzes the theories that cohabitation reduces the number of people marrying and that the instability inherent in a nonmarital relationship can be harmful to children. The theory that cohabitation negatively affects marriage rates assumes that an adult has only two choices: to marry or to cohabitate. In reality, low income persons also may decide to stay single because of the economic situation of their partner or because they distrust men. Many women prefer not to marry or live with a man who is economically unproductive or who may usurp their control in the family. Research conducted with families indicates that cohabiting couples with children are committed to each other and their family unit. Some couples report that they may marry in the future and almost all unmarried mothers would like the father to participate in the child's life. Children who have unmarried, committed parents have better outcomes than children in single parent families in which there is no relationship between the father and the mother. 24 references.
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What Are the Choices for Low-Income Families?: Cohabitation, Marriage, and Remaining Single.
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