Marriage or cohabitation: the consequences of a separation on school performance of girls and boys

Solene Lardoux, Université de Montréal
David Pelletier, Université de Montréal

Cohabitation becomes a common alternative to marriage for family formation. Yet, research has rarely compared child development of cohabiting and married parents, nor has research studied independently the effects of a separation of a cohabiting union from those of a marriage break up. Based on a sample of a cohort of 1188 children in the QLSCD (Quebec Longitudinal Survey of Child Development), we intend in the present study to better understand the relations between the type of union at birth and the occurrence of a parental separation after birth, with school performance of children in the first year at school. While in the United States, cohabitation is marginal as a form of union and is often associated with behavioral and school problems, in Quebec consensual union is more often a substitute for marriage. Our results show that, in this Canadian province, there is a positive association between being born in a cohabiting union and a good school performance for girls. Parents’ separation is often negatively associated to school performance; however, it varies by type of union at birth, sex of child and subject of instruction. Girls seem slightly more affected by the separation of a marriage than of a cohabiting union, but this is only significant in reading. As for boys, separation of a cohabiting union has a more negative influence than separation of a marriage, but the difference is significant only for the school performance in all areas of instruction, and non significant in reading, writing and mathematics. Finally, and this may be the main result of the present study, family structure and other co-variants are associated differently for boys and girls to the probability to be near the top of the class.

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Presented in Poster Session 3