Marriage proponent Maggie Gallagher writing in Human Events.
Marriage matters, but why?
For more than 20 years, social scientists have consistently found that children do better raised by their mothers and fathers united by marriage.
For most of that time policymakers have focused on the problem of “father absence,” and it is a real problem. Very few boys and girls have involved, loving, supportive fathers if the man that made them is not married to their mama.
But a new crop of research is challenging the idea that the main or only problem with the decline of marriage is the absence of fathers. An equally big or even bigger problem may be the churning romantic lives of unmarried and divorced mothers.
[...]It’s not just cohabitation that puts children at risk; it’s dating instability as well. Even after controlling for the parent’s marital status at birth, maternal age, race, immigrant status, parents’ education, poverty, gender and low birth weight, the researchers conclude:
“We found that both types of partnership instability (coresidential and dating) are associated with lower verbal ability, more externalizing problems and more social problems, and that coresidential instability is associated with attention problems. Our study is the first to provide strong empirical evidence that dating transitions are similar to marital and cohabiting transitions in terms of their association with children’s school readiness.”
The dating lives of mothers who are not married when their children are born are particularly tumultuous as the researchers note:
“Half of children born to unmarried parents experience three or more changes by age 5. … These findings suggest that children born into alternative family forms are at a significantly higher risk for both academic and behavioral problems at school entry.”
This is an issue that I have long been interested in having observed the effects of this problem firsthand with my friends whose parents were going through divorces. In fact, this situation is even touched on in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, when Hamlet’s mother remarries very soon and throws Hamlet’s world into turmoil.