More and more research demonstrates just how much the concept of family has changed over the last 25 years. Divorce is no longer a tragedy; blended families, mixed-race families, same-sex families, multi-generational families, single-parent families -- the "traditional" nuclear family of father, mother and their 2.3 biological children will soon be a distant memory.
Informal polls of work colleagues should bear this out. Millennials don't even raise an eyebrow now to living arrangements that once scandalized Baby Boomers. Cohabitation is an acceptable substitute for or lead-in to legal marriage, and having children is no longer tied inexorably to marriage.
Backing up our assertions about children is a report issued recently by the Council on Contemporary Families, a non-profit, non-partisan research group. The council analyzed data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find out about the staying power of marriages when the couple had a child before tying the knot.
The researchers compared two groups -- couples who had a child before marriage with couples who had a child after they were married -- from two time periods, 1985-1995 and 1997-2010. Their findings were perhaps not that surprising.
During the earlier period, marriages were 60 percent more likely to fail if the couple had a child before the wedding. In the latter period, the risk of divorce was the same for couples who had and had not had a child before marriage. And, more couples in the latter group were having children before marriage. Overall, social norms have changed, and communities more readily embrace even these "non-traditional" families.
The study also looked at the longevity of relationships of couples who had children but never married. (Remember, marriage is an option, not an obligation.) The data revealed that nearly one-third of these couples separated within five years of having a child.