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

April 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)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Probing how Americans think about mental life

October 20, 2017
When Stanford researchers asked people to think about the sensations and emotions of inanimate or non-human entities, they got a glimpse into how those people think about mental life.

Itsy bitsy spider: Fear of spiders and snakes is deeply embedded in us

October 19, 2017
Snakes and spiders evoke fear and disgust in many people, even in developed countries where hardly anybody comes into contact with them. Until now, there has been debate about whether this aversion is innate or learnt. Scientists ...

Dutch courage—Alcohol improves foreign language skills

October 18, 2017
A new study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, conducted by researchers from the University of Liverpool, Maastricht University and King's College London, shows that bilingual speakers' ability to speak a second ...

Inflamed support cells appear to contribute to some kinds of autism

October 18, 2017
Modeling the interplay between neurons and astrocytes derived from children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Brazil, say innate ...

Study suggests psychedelic drugs could reduce criminal behavior

October 18, 2017
Classic psychedelics such as psilocybin (often called magic mushrooms), LSD and mescaline (found in peyote) are associated with a decreased likelihood of antisocial criminal behavior, according to new research from investigators ...

Taking probiotics may reduce postnatal depression

October 18, 2017
Researchers from the University of Auckland and Otago have found evidence that a probiotic given in pregnancy can help prevent or treat symptoms of postnatal depression and anxiety.

1 comment

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!)

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.