Why do so many low-income couples postpone marriage but fail to postpone childbearing? Which couples eventually do marry? Why do the rest of the couples break up? How would knowing the answers to these questions affect public policy?
A new briefing report by the Council on Contemporary Families offers an advance look at the answers to these questions, based on research to be published in a forthcoming book (October, 2007) by Stanford sociologist Paula England and Harvard sociologist Kathryn Edin.
The report, “Unmarried Couples with Children,” follows below. Among the questions to which it provides surprising answers:
- Why low-income unmarried couples with children believe they will have a longer-lasting relationship if they postpone marriage, even after they have a child, and even though most say they expect to marry each other;
- Which couples are most likely to use contraception; and why some couples do not;
- How the issues that eventually break most of these couples up differ from the issues that initially cause them to postpone marriage;
- Why liberal and conservative policy proposals for these couples each fail to address half the problem.
Other topics covered in the study:
- Couples who do not use birth control consistently are NOT the uncommitted couples we often hear about, who have a short fling, leaving the woman pregnant and the man long gone. It is the committed couples who do not regularly use birth control, and the report explains why;
- What issues create conflict for low-income couples with children, and why it is women who usually initiate the breakup;
- What predicts good fathering in a relationship when a man has a child from a previous relationship, as so many of the men (and women) in these couples do.
Director of Research and Public Education
Council on Contemporary Families
The Council on Contemporary Families is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to providing the press and public with the latest research and best-practice findings about American families. Our members include demographers, economists, family therapists, historians, political scientists, psychologists, social workers, sociologists, as well as other family social scientists and practitioners.
Founded in 1996 and now based in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Miami, the Council’s mission is to enhance the national understanding of how and why contemporary families are changing, what needs and challenges they face, and how these needs can best be met. To fulfill that mission, the Council holds annual conferences, open to the public, and issues periodic briefing papers and fact sheets.