Does Cohabitation Matter? The Effects of Nonmarital Cohabitation Disruption on Children's Behavior

Zheng Wu, University of Victoria
Feng Hou, Statistics Canada
Christoph M. Schimmele, University of Victoria

This study investigates whether children’s behaviors associate with cohabiting-parent families and cohabitation breakdown, using 5 waves (1994 – 2003) of data from Canada’s National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth. The findings demonstrate that children living with cohabiting couples have worse behavioral outcomes than those living with married couples. This negative effect obtains through disparities in socioeconomic and parental resources. Unlike divorce, cohabitation breakdown has a non-significant influence on children’s behavioral outcomes, before and after considering differences in socioeconomic status, family functioning, and parental resources. The findings also indicate that divorce is worse than cohabitation breakdown for children’s emotional well-being.

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Presented in Session 87: Cohabitation