IFS Reports (C114)

Cohabitation, marriage and child outcomes

Date: 19 April 2010
Authors: Alissa Goodman and Ellen Greaves
DOI: 10.1920/co.ifs.2010.0114

It is well known that children born to married parents achieve better outcomes, on average, both at school and in terms of their social and emotional development, than children born into other family forms, including into cohabiting unions. This Commentary documents in some detail how children's cognitive and social development differs between married and cohabiting parents, and provides a preliminary assessment of the extent to which such differences might be due to a causal effect of marriage itself. In so doing, it aims to inform a policy debate on the merits of encouraging individuals to enter marriage before they bear children, which has intensified in the run-up to the forthcoming general election.