Living together before or in lieu of marriage is a growing option for many couples

Living together before or in lieu of marriage is a growing option for many couples

In research published from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (a long-term study initiated in 1994 that is following the development of a large cohort of children from birth to the age of 25), the evidence is ambiguous as to whether having single or dual parents has a significant effect on child development outcomes. For example, indicators of vocabulary ability of children aged four to five years old did not differ significantly between single- and dual-parent families. However, aggressive behaviour (reported by parents) in both girls and boys aged four to five years old was greater in single-parent families (Human Resources Development Canada, 2003). In fact, significant ental attainment were more related to the sex of the child (more pronounced in boys), maternal depression, low maternal education, maternal immigrant status, and low family income (To, et al., 2004). We will have to wait for more research to be published from the latest cycle of the National Longitudinal Survey to see whether there is more conclusive evidence concerning the relative advantages of dual- and single-parent family settings.

Nevertheless, what the data show is that the key factors in children’s quality of life are the educational levels and economic condition of the family, not whether children’s parents are ple, young children in low-income families are more likely to have vocabulary problems, and young children in higher-income families have more opportunities to participate in recreational activities (Human Resources Development Canada, 2003). This is a matter related more to public policy decisions concerning the level of financial support and care services (like public child care) provided to families than different family structures per se. In Sweden, where the government provides generous paid parental leave after the birth of a child, free health care, temporary paid parental leave for parents with sick children, high-quality subsidized daycare, and substantial direct child-benefit payments for each child, indicators of child well-being (literacy, levels of child poverty, rates of suicide, etc.) score very high regardless of the difference between single- and dual-parent family structures (Houseknecht and Sastry, 1996).


Cohabitation, when a man and woman live together in a sexual relationship without being married, was practised by an estimated 1.6 million people (16.7% of all census families) in 2011, which shows an increase of 13.9% since 2006 (Statistics Canada, 2012). This surge in cohabitation is likely due to the decrease in social stigma pertaining to the practice. In Quebec in particular, researchers have noted that it is common for married couples under the age of 50 to describe themselves in terms used more in cohabiting relationships than marriage: mon conjoint (partner) or mon chum (intimate friend) rather than mon ). In fact, cohabitation or common-law marriage is much more prevalent in Quebec (31.5% of census families) and the Northern Territories (from 25.1% in Yukon to 32.7% in Nunavut) than in the rest of the country (13% in British Columbia, for example) (Statistics Canada, 2012).

While couples may use this time to “work out the kinks” of a relationship before they wed, the most recent research has found that cohabitation has little effect on the success of a marriage

Cohabitating couples may choose to live together in an effort to spend more time together or to save money on living costs. Many couples view cohabitation as a “trial run” for marriage. Today, approximately 28% of men and women cohabitated before their first marriage. By comparison, 18% of men and 23% of women married without ever cohabitating (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). The vast majority of cohabitating relationships eventually result in marriage; only 15% of men and women cohabitate only and do not marry. About one-half of cohabitators transition into ).

Those who do not cohabitate before marriage have slightly better rates of remaining ). Cohabitation may contribute to the increase in the number of men and women who delay marriage. The average age of first , the average age of first marriage was 29.6 for women and 31 for men, compared to 23 for women and 25 for men through most of the 1960s and 1970s (Milan, 2013).