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Jewish World Review April 25, 2000 /20 Nissan, 5760

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Consumer Reports


Cohabiting is bad for adults -- and terrible for children -- KIMBERLY HENRY and Richard Pitcher of Peralta, N.M., are being charged with unlawful cohabitation under Article 30-10-2 of the New Mexico criminal code. I, for one, am glad about that and am worried about the attitude of the local district attorney, Michael Runnels, who, The New York Times reported, "predicted that his office would find a legal avenue to dismiss the case."

Mr. Pitcher's second ex-wife filed the complaint because their 5-year-old daughter visits her father. "It's a morality issue," said Vickie Jenkins Avants, 36. "We're spending six days a week trying to teach moral values, and the one day a week she's with her dad, he's got that woman moved in."

Ms. Henry is quoted as saying: "If I get married, I take the vow very seriously. I truly believe you don't really know someone until you get thrown in together." Sound reasonable? Perhaps so, but the facts don't support that notion at all. According to what Dr. Mark Genius, executive direction of the National Foundation for Family Research and Education in Calgary, Canada, told the Alberta Report: "Concerns are real; people want to know if they're compatible. But they need to realize that putting one foot in and getting a feel for it hasn't worked. The critical element is that in marriage two people make a commitment to a common vision, then work together to achieve it."

Basically, living together fails as a trial run. USA Today, in its 1998 review of the book "Why Marriages Succeed or Fail" by University of Washington researcher Dr. John Gottman, reported that "women in cohabiting unions are more than twice as likely to be the victims of domestic violence than married women. Data from the National Institute of Mental Health show that cohabiting women have rates of depression more than three times higher than married women -- and more than twice as high as other unmarried women.

"Even more significantly," the article continues, "The National Institute for Healthcare Research notes that couples who cohabited prior to marriage report significantly lower levels of marital happiness than other couples. And a recent research summary by Scott Stanley of the University of Denver says that 'couples who cohabited before marriage have significantly higher divorce rates than those who did not.'"

U.S. News and World Report recently reported that cohabiting couples experience "... more cheating by both partners."

The Lincoln Journal Star in 1997 interviewed a Nebraska Wesleyan University sociologist about the "live-in" phenomenon. He clarified the true underlying motivation for this growing trend in alternative lifestyles: "What that means is that people in all stages of life are centering not on the family or group but on individual goals and autonomy." This self-centered, get-what-I-can-while-I-give-as-little-as-I-have-to approach turns out to be devastating to children.

I have said many times on my radio program that I do not lose sleep at night over what adults do to themselves. However, I lose a lot of sleep over what their behaviors do to children. The "shacking up" behavior poisons people against the very family-oriented values that are the cornerstone of civilization. The Washington Post in 1997 reported that cohabiting weakens the desire for family. "The researchers found that 'young people who have cohabited desire significantly fewer children and are significantly more approving of divorce than young people who never cohabited. ... The more months of exposure to cohabitation that young people experienced, the less enthusiastic they were toward marriage and childbearing.'"

Finally, but not incidentally, the Post in 1998 published an article from Britain identifying the strong correlation between child abuse and the marital status of parents. "Compared with the two-parent married family, (a) study found the incidence of abuse was an astounding 33 times higher when the mother was cohabiting with a boyfriend unrelated to her children. Even when the live-in boyfriend was the father of one or more of her children, abuse was still 10 times more likely."

How is any of this in the interest of American society and its children? I hear a lot about gun locks to protect children from shooting one another. I don't hear enough about behavior locks on adults to protect their children from instability, loss, chaos, abuse and death. I guess that's because we're in the era of doing whatever pleases each and every one of us -- and if it hurts someone else, well, too bad. Unfortunately, that attitude doesn't just hurt. It kills children's spirit and well-being.

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© 2000, Dr. Laura Schlessinger. This feature may not be reproduced or distributed electronically, in print or otherwise without the written permission of Universal New Media and Universal Press Syndicate.