Marriage and Positive Child Outcomes: Commitment, Signaling, and Sequence

by Scott Stanley

Why is marriage associated with positive child outcomes when compared to non-marriage? In The Marriage Effect: Money or Parenting? Kimberly Howard and Richard Reeves argued that the primary mechanisms through which marriage benefits children are based on income and parenting quality. Emily Badger wrote a piece on their work with a title that captured the take-away was for many: Children with married parents are better off — but marriage isn’t the reason why. While I agree with a number of their points, I believe something substantial is missing in Howard and Reeves’ overall argument. Brad Wilcox outlined one set of concerns. My focus here is in a different direction—on the development and timing of commitment.

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