The Bethany Program

The Bethany program offers a comprehensive mental health evaluation program for priests, religious and seminarians.  Also, an intensive 3 month outpatient treatment program is available for serious psychological conflicts.

Evaluation of Conflicts in Self-Giving

The Risks of Cohabitation

Cohabitation presents a serious threat to the likelihood of later marital happiness, as well as to the psychological health of children born into such unions.  Most young adults and their parents are unaware of the extensive literature on the dangers of cohabitation.  This article presents those serious risks to young adults and to the society at large that is dependent upon stable, loving marriages and families.  A recent youtube video on cohabitation captures some of the significant issues related to this highly problematic method of relating, http://youtu.be/XVErKZGzNNM.
 
This vital issue is rarely addressed in the marriage prep programs even though many dioceses up to 75% of engaged Catholic couples cohabitate. One national study revealed that over half of all engaged couples have lived together before marriage (National Marriage Project, Rutgers University: 2002).  An excellent statement on cohabitation is Cohabitation, Marriage and Child Wellbeing (2008) from the National Marriage Project written by Dr. David Popenoe, professor emeritus of sociology and former social and behavioral sciences dean at Rutgers,
www.virginia.edu/marriageproject/pdfs/NMP2008CohabitationReport.pdf.  Let's look now at the research that demonstrates the harmful effects of cohabitation upon couples and children.
 

The Harmful Effects of Cohabitation on Relationships

 
  • A 1992 study of 3,300 cases found that coupled who cohabited prior to marriage have a risk for divorce that is about 46% higher than for non-cohabiters (Journal of Marriage and the family: February 1992).
  • Annual rates of depression among cohabiting couples are more than three times what they are among married couples (Journal of Health and Social Behavior: September 2000).
  • Women cohabiting relationships are more likely to suffer physical and sexual abuse than married women (National Marriage Project, Rutgers University: 2002).
  • The more months of exposure to cohabitation, the less enthusiastic couples are about marriage and childbearing (Journal of Marriage & Family: 59, 1997).
  • Cohabiting couples report lower levels of happiness, lower levels of sexual exclusivity and satisfaction, and poorer relationships with their parents (Journal of Family Issues: January 1995).
  • Cohabiters tend to not have an ethic of commitment that is as strong as non-cohabiters.  This could explain the high rates of divorce among couples that cohabited prior to marriage (Journal of Marriage and the Family: August 1997).
  • Cohabiting unions tend to weaken the institution of marriage and pose special risks to children (Just Living Together: Implications of Cohabitation on Families, Children and Social Policy.  New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: 2002).
  • By 2000, the total number of unmarried couples in America was almost 4.75 million, up from less than half a million in 1960 (U.S. Census Bureau: 2001).
  • Cohabitation increases acceptance of divorce among young people (Journal of Marriage & Family: 59,
  • Cohabitation can contribute to selfishness and later a lack of openness to children.
  • Respondents who cohabited after divorce or cohabited with their partner in a subsequent marriage reported, on average, lower levels of happiness in the remarriage than remarried respondents who did not cohabit at after the initial divorce (Journal of Marriage and Family: Vol. 68, Number 2. May, 2006).
  • Compared with peers who had not cohabited prior to marriage, individuals who had cohabited reported higher levels of depression and the level of depression also rose with the length of cohabitation. (Alabama Policy Institute: August 2006).
  • The longer couples cohabited before marrying, the more likely they were to resort to heated arguments, hitting, and throwing objects when conflicts arose in their subsequent marriage. A longer length of cohabitation was linked to a greater frequency of heated arguments, even when controlling for spouses' age. (Alabama Policy Institute: August, 2006).

 

The Harmful Effects of Cohabitation on Children

 
  • A report in 2010 on child abuse by the Department of Health and Human Service that found that children living with two married biological parents had the lowest rates of harm — 6.8 per 1,000 children — while children living with one parent who had an unmarried partner in the house had the highest incidence, at 57.2 per 1,000 children.  Children living in cohabiting households are 8 times more likely to be harmed than children living with married biological parents. (Abuse, Neglect,  Adoption and Foster Care Research, National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, NIS-4, 2004-2009, March 2010, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation.)
  • In 2000, 41% of all unmarried-couple households included a child under the age of 18.  This is up from only 21% in 1987 (U.S. Census Bureau: March 2000).
  • One of the major risks to children in cohabiting households is the high rate of breakup.  This leads to many personal and social difficulties for children as they face the loss of the security found in home life children (Just Living Together: Implications of Cohabitation on Families, Children and Social Policy.  New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: 2002).
  • Several studies have shown that children living with their mother and her unmarried partner have more behavior problems and lower academic performance than children in intact families. (Social Forces 73-1: 1994).
  • Fully three quarters of children born in cohabiting parents will see their parents split up before they reach age 16.  Only one third of children born to married parents will face a similar fate (National Marriage Project, Rutgers University: 2002).
  • Child abuse is a major problem in cohabiting households.  The number of reported abuse has been steadily rising over the past ten years (National Marriage Project, Rutgers University: 2002).
  • Evidence demonstrates that the most unsafe family environment for children is one in which the mother lives with a boyfriend. (The Heritage Foundation, Washington, DC: 1997).
  • Among children who did not live in a consistently intact family through age 12, those whose mothers cohabited at some time experienced a higher level of family instability, measured by the number of transitions in household structure, than those whose mothers had not cohabited, 2.6 vs. 1.4 for white children, and 2.0 vs. 0.7 for Black children, (Journal of Marriage and Family: Vol. 66, February, 2004).
  • Anne-Marie Ambert, the author of a study that reviewed hundreds of research papers that examined the social, emotional and financial effects of cohabitation and marriage on women, men, children and society, concluded that cohabitation is inherently unstable and carries a high cost on children's physical and psychological development.
  • Ambert noted, "Commitment and stability are at the core of children's needs; yet, in a great proportion of cohabitations, these two requirements are absent." (Vanier Institute of Family, "Cohabitation and Marriage: How Are They Related?, 2005)
  • Children born to cohabiting versus married parents have over five times the risk of experiencing their parents' separation, showing an exponential increase in relationship failure for couples currently or ever cohabiting. (Smock P, 2010)
  • In a study of 149 inflicted-injury deaths during the 8-year study period children residing in households with unrelated adults were nearly 50 times as likely to die of inflicted injuries than children residing with 2 biological parents (adjusted odds ratio: 47.6; 95% confidence interval: 10.4-218). Children in households with a single parent and no other adults in residence had no increased risk of inflicted-injury death, Schnizter, PG, Child deaths resulting from inflicted injuries: household risk factors and perpetrator characteristics. (Pediatrics. 2005, Nov;116 :687-93)
Hopefully, parents of young adults who are considering cohabitation can grow in confidence to share with their sons and daughters the major dangers posed by cohabitation.
 
 

Faith Reflections on Cohabitation

 
John Paul II expressed his views about cohabitation in The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World, "The Church, for her part, cannot admit such a kind of union, for further and original reasons which derive from faith.  For, in the first place, the gift of the body in the sexual relationship is a real symbol of the giving of the whole person: such a giving, moreover, in the present state of things cannot take place with full truth without the concourse of the love of charity, given by Christ.  In the second place, marriage between two baptized persons is a real symbol of the union of Christ and the Church, which is not a temporary or “trial union but one which is eternally faithful.  Therefore between two baptized persons there can exist only an indissoluble marriage," Familiaris Consortio, n. 80.
 
Pope Benedict commented on the importance of strong marriages, "The family is the nucleus in which a person first learns human love and responsibility, generosity and fraternal concern.  Strong families are build on the foundation of strong marriages.  Strong societies are built on the foundation of strong families."  Pope Benedict XVI, September 14, 2007.
 
Finally, St. Paul wrote, "This is the will of God, your holiness: that you refrain from immorality, that each of you know how to acquire a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion as do the Gentiles who do not know God; not to take advantage of or exploit a brother or a sister in this matter, for the Lord is an avenger in all things, as we told you before and solemnly affirmed," I Thes. 4:3.

Our mission is to strengthen Catholic marriages and families by educating spouses, marital therapists and clergy about common causes of conflicts in marital self-giving and effective approaches to alleviating such conflicts. 

Our mission is to strengthen families by educating parents about common causes of emotional and behavioral conflicts in children and by providing effective approaches to alleviating such conflicts. 

Dr. Fitzgibbons has coauthored a textbook on the treatment on excessive anger in adult and child psychiatric disorders in the field of positive psychology for American Psychological Association Books, Helping Clients Forgive: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope.