Parents: Slow Down and Get Off the Marriage-Go-Round

Apr 28, 2009

After a divorce or break-up, parents need to be very cautious about bringing new love interests into their homes, according to Andrew Cherlin, a professor in the Department of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University.

In his new book, The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today (April 2009, Alfred A. Knopf), Cherlin writes that any transition that brings a new partner or stepparent into the home can be difficult for to cope with.

Cherlin suggests that a two-adult household doesn't always add up to the best situation for the children involved. Frequent marriage, frequent , and an increase in short-term cohabitating relationships are creating a great turbulence in American family life on a scale seen nowhere else, he said, and more thought should be given to the children caught up in the changes their parents make in the quest for personally satisfying romantic relationships.

"The merry-go-round property of American families is more than a statistical curiosity," Cherlin said. "We should be concerned about it, both as parents and as a nation, because it may increase children's behavioral and emotional problems. Simply put, some children seem to have difficulty adjusting to a series of parents and parents' partners moving in and out of their homes."

Because Americans see marriage as the most prestigious way to live, it remains the goal for many people, parents included. But the stable home a single parent can provide may be more beneficial than a quick repartnering or remarriage, Cherlin said. For instance, if a mother and her child move in with the mother's boyfriend, but they break up soon after the move, the child may be worse off than if her mother had kept their home life as it was. The same principle applies to remarriage, he said.

"The well-being of the children of lone parents may be improved not by urging their parents to quickly bring a stepparent into the household but rather by urging them to search longer and more carefully for a partner, or to remain single if they choose," Cherlin said.

Cherlin's research found that whether an American parent is married, cohabitating, or raising children without a partner, that parent is more likely to change living arrangements in the near future than parents in the rest of the Western world. Instead of encouraging people with children to marry, we should make stable families a policy priority regardless of how many parents are present in the home, Cherlin said.

"To the current chorus of Get married,' I would sound a counterpoint: Slow down,'" Cherlin said. "If you are a lone parent, take your time finding a new live-in partner. See the traffic light of singlehood as yellow rather than green. Don't move in with someone, and don't remarry, until you are sure the relationship will be a lasting one that will benefit your children."

The impact of family flux on the lives of children is one of several topics Andrew Cherlin discusses in The Marriage-Go-Round. The book also includes the history of American marriage dating back to Colonial times, the rise of the companionate as the American ideal, and how the changing world economy is affecting the marriage-ability of American men and women.

Provided by Johns Hopkins University (news : web)

Explore further: New research shows lack of motivation affects cognitive performance in schizophrenia

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Children's sex affects parents' marital status

May 23, 2006

Parents with a boy and a girl are more likely to stay married, or get married if they were unmarried when their children were born, than those with two boys or two girls according to new research from ANU economist Dr Andrew ...

Divorce reduces chance of new, successful relationship

Sep 07, 2007

After a separation or divorce the chances of marrying or cohabiting again decrease. In particular, a previous marriage or children from a previous relationship, reduce the chances of a new relationship. Moreover, the prospects ...

Recommended for you

Giving emotions to virtual characters

6 hours ago

Researchers at the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico (UAEM) were able to simulate human facial expressions in virtual characters and use them in order to create better environments within a virtual ...

Emotion-tracking software aims for "mood-aware" internet

7 hours ago

Emotions can be powerful for individuals. But they're also powerful tools for content creators, such as advertisers, marketers, and filmmakers. By tracking people's negative or positive feelings toward ads—via ...

The emotional appeal of stand-up comedy

7 hours ago

Comics taking to the stage at the Edinburgh Fringe this week should take note: how much of a hit they are with their audiences won't be down to just their jokes. As Dr Tim Miles from the University of Surrey has discovered, ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

freethinking
not rated yet Apr 28, 2009
No kidding...... WoW! New News!
Then he goes on and says "Instead of encouraging people with children to marry, we should make stable families a policy" Well, the most stable home is a home within a married home, the most benificial home for children is one with a Mother and a Father. (Put on flame suite, yes there are some very stable non married homes, some children do better in single homes.... yada yada yada.... but statistically speaking the majority of children do much better in a married home, no ifs and or buts... so we should encourage married homes!)