Another strike against cohabitation: mom’s boyfriend can be deadly

This blog has noted previously some of the problems with a recent spate of stories purporting to show that cohabitation is not necessarily so bad (see here and here).

Last week, the Deseret News ran a story reporting on yet another study that points to a likely heightened risk of divorce for those who cohabit before marrying.

Starker news comes from Nevada. Glenn Cook writes in the Las Vegas Review-Journal about a new “child welfare campaign” aimed at encouraging unwed mothers to be careful about the men they allow to have access to their children. Mr. Cook reports: 

The maddening, tragic trend of children being murdered by the abusive boyfriends of their single mothers has the full attention of valley law enforcement, social workers and researchers. On Wednesday, as part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a coalition led by UNLV’s Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy launched the “Choose Your Partner Carefully” campaign. The drive, which already is under way in other communities across the country, attempts to educate parents about qualities in a partner/caregiver that officials say can put a child at risk for abuse.
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I first wrote about this issue in January 2011, in a column headlined “Single moms, boyfriends and dead kids.”Las Vegaspolice reviewed child abuse and neglect homicides between 2005 and 2010 for me and found they were most often carried out by the mother’s boyfriend, with 11 such cases in those six years in Metro’s jurisdiction. I also learned that the FBI’s national homicide data list 17 categories for a homicide victim’s relationship to the killer, and “mother’s boyfriend” isn’t one of them. It’s a crime in need of deeper examination.

The Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy reported Wednesday that in almost half of abuse and neglect homicides reported by all Clark County jurisdictions over the past two years, the perpetrator or suspect charged in the crime was the mother’s boyfriend.

Interestingly, Utah’s law does allow tracking of crime statistics by family structure, so perhaps an enterprising reporter might look into our state’s results.

These and similar stories are a sobering and important reminder that jettisoning traditional standards comes with a cost. The quote attributed to G.K. Chesterton (perhaps apocryphally) seems apt here: “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up.”

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