The National Marriage Project, which conducts research on marriage and family in the United States, has a new report out on divorce, cohabitation and marriage. When it comes to living together, the research found that in the last 40 years… …there has been a twelvefold increase in the number of cohabiting households. The report says that 42% of children have lived with cohabiting parents by age twelve. The researchers don’t think this is a good thing. They say that, “family instability is on the rise for American children as a whole” because “more couples are having children in cohabiting unions, which are very unstable.” The research also indicates that “children in cohabiting households are more likely to suffer from a range of emotional and social problems…compared to children in intact, married families.” It also showed that “rates of child abuse are lowest in families with two married biological parents, and highest when there is an unmarried unrelated partner in the home.”

Cohabitating couples with children may have their problems, at least according to this research, but it is worth looking at why more people seem to not want to marry. Take the Millennial generation, or Echo Boomers. An average of 22% of people ages 18-31 are not married. Why might they not want to marry? Here are just three reasons:

1. They have witnessed a lot of divorce from generations before them. If it was with their own parents, they experienced the divorce first hand, and all the pain and ugliness that that can include, from custody battles to trying to force alliances with one parent or the other.

2. Financial concerns. This generation is suffering from the state of the economy. A Pew Research Center report indicates that 10% say the poor economy has forced them to move back in with their parents. Twelve percent say they have had to get a roommate. Fifteen percent younger than 35 say they have postponed getting married because of the bad economic times we are in.

3. This generation has more single parents than former generations. The idea of tying the civil knot with someone who already has kids might very well butt up against #2—financial concerns.

It’s also interesting to note that a good share of those in this age range do not have kids. 2010 Census research tells us that 70% of women ages 20-24 do not have children, and almost half of those ages 25-29  do not have children. The data do not discern whether they are childfree or just not ready to become a parent–yet.  Whether they want to marry or not, financial concerns from the state of the economy may very well play a role in why those who want children don’t have them yet. And the same kind of considerations may factor into why many don’t want them at all.

But back to marriage versus cohabitation, the National Marriage Project has been known as a “pro-marriage” organization, so it is not surprising that they focus on the negatives that can result when families do not engage in the traditional institution when it comes to having a committed relationship and children.

However, does the “instability” it speaks to really boil down to overall economic instability more than anything else? It seems more than the kind of commitment a couple chooses, one union in the eyes of the state and one not, if there was more economic stability in our society, committed partners and their children, married or not, would be better off.

What do you see out there when it comes to why people don’t want to marry?

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