Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 135–159 | Cite as

The relative stability of cohabiting and marital unions for children

  • Wendy D. Manning
  • Pamela J. Smock
  • Debarun Majumdar


Children are increasingly born into cohabiting parent families, but we know little to date about the implications of this family pattern for children's lives. We examine whether children born into premarital cohabitation and first marriages experience similar rates of parental disruption, and whether marriage among cohabiting parents enhances union stability. These issues are important because past research has linked instability in family structure with lower levels of child well-being. Drawing on the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, we find that white, black and Hispanic children born to cohabiting parents experience greater levels of instability than children born to married parents. Moreover, black and Hispanic children whose cohabiting parents marry do not experience the same levels of family stability as those born to married parents; among white children, however, the marriage of cohabiting parents raises levels of family stability to that experienced by children born in marriage. The findings from this paper contribute to the debate about the benefits of marriage for children.

Children Cohabitation Divorce Family structure Marriage Race and ethnicity 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wendy D. Manning
    • 1
  • Pamela J. Smock
    • 2
  • Debarun Majumdar
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Sociology & Center for Family and Demographic ResearchBowling Green State UniversityOhioUSA
  2. 2.Department of Sociology & Population Studies CenterThe University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Department of SociologySouthwest Texas State UniversitySan MarcosUSA

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