Many authors have written about the benefits and drawbacks of cohabitation in recent years. In my recent Huffington Post article “Should I Move In With My Partner?”, I write, “While there aren’t any easy answers to the question of whether couples should cohabit, being aware of the risks involved may help you to make a more informed decision.” However, what I neglected to address in this article is the issue of how to make a wise decision about moving in with a partner when one or both of you have children.
Adding children to the mix makes cohabitation even more complicated, and yet there doesn’t appear to be much research about the impact of parental cohabitation on children. Since single parents make up over 40 percent of all US households, this is an important topic to explore.
If you’re a single parent who is considering cohabitation, what are the risks? The answer to this question is complicated because there are multiple risks. First of all, there is some evidence that cohabitation increases your chance for breakup and divorce — if you ultimately decide to marry. Secondly, we need to consider the risk to children who may have a negative reaction to multiple caregivers and loss.
In my opinion, you need to consider that your child may have established a close bond with your partner, and they might experience it as a loss if you break up. The late Judith Wallerstein, a distinguished psychologist, was one of the few authors who wrote about this topic. In What About the Kids? she writes, “If they genuinely grow to like or even love the person you’ve invited into your lives and that person disappears one night, it’s another loss. It’s frightening when people disappear and it’s awful to feel rejected.”
Over the last fifty years, there has been a quiet shift in the landscape of family life in America. Approximately two-thirds of couples live together before marriage; this number is compared to one-half of couples 20 years ago according to The Pew Research Center. Rand sociologists,who study family demographics, surveyed 2,600 couples who lived together without marriage. One of the most interesting findings of this study is that young adults who cohabitated had lower levels of commitment than those who marry. Further, couples who cohabit report lower levels of certainty about the future of their relationships, especially if they are males. While the evidence is mostly anecdotal, most experts agree that cohabitation puts children at risk for possible losses that may compound the original breakup of the family home, creating more instability.
Read the rest over at YourTango.com: Cohabitation With Kids: Is It Worth the Risk?
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