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Glenn T. Stanton has made a career studying the role of families in our society—both as a consultant in the George W. Bush administration and today as director for family formation studies at Focus on the Family. His latest book, The Ring Makes All the Difference: The Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage (Moody), explores the many downsides of an increasingly popular practice among young couples: living together before marriage. Caryn Rivadeneira, an author and regular contributor to the CT women's blog, Her.meneutics, spoke with Stanton about his research findings and why they matter to men, women, and children.

Why did you focus on the scientific data about the dangers of cohabitation, rather than Scripture?

There's a natural theology in creation that we need to observe. My use of science and data is a pounding on the pulpit. As Christians we read out of two books: the book of Scripture and the book of nature. That's how godly people—and smart people—should look at the world.

Should pastors, for instance, cite academic research to counsel people who are considering living together?

We already know ideologically that marriage is a different relationship than cohabitation, but we need to know that research data support God's Word. The Bible is not some antiquated thing that we need to keep as far as we can from science, lest science overshadow it. It's really quite dramatic how science confirms the scriptural understanding of marriage.

Is cohabitation more or less egalitarian than marriage?

Marriage is actually a very pro-woman institution. People don't fully realize what a raw deal for women cohabitation is. Women tend to bring more ...

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The Science of Shacking Up
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September 2011

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