Co-Habitation

Mormon marriageModern “morality” seeks to convince us that “testing” a relationship prior to marriage will strengthen it and stave off divorce.  However, studies show that the opposite is true.  Men and women who co-habit instead of marrying or before marriage fare poorly when compared to men and women who enter into a committed marriage relationship without co-habiting.  The following is a report from divorcereform.org.  These results are typical of the many studies now being conducted on co-habitation vs marriage.

“Dr. Jan Stets, a leading scholar on cohabiting relationships found in
general, ‘Cohabiting couples compared to married couples have less healthy relationships. They have lower relationship quality, lower stability, and a higher level of disagreements.’  Work done at the Family Violence Research
Program at the University of New Hampshire found that ‘cohabitors are much more violent than marrieds…’ It was also found that the overall rates of
violence among cohabitors was double that of marrieds and “severe” violence
was five times as high for cohabitors.

“Stets also found that nearly three times as many cohabitors admitted ‘hitting, shoving and throwing things at their partners in the past year’ compared to married couples. She also found that cohabitors are more likely to ‘exhibit depression and drunkenness than married couples.’ Additional research conducted at UCLA found that marriages preceded by cohabitation were more prone to problems like ‘use of drugs and alcohol, more permissive sexual relationships, and an abhorrence of dependence’ than relationships not preceded by cohabitation.

“All of this contributes to the fact that cohabiting relationships and marriages preceded by cohabitation break-up at increased rates. It explains why ‘those who cohabit before marriage have substantially higher divorce rates than those who do not; the recorded differentials range from 50% to 100%. ‘ In addition, research done jointly at Yale and Columbia Universities found that “the dissolution rate for women who cohabit premaritally with their future spouse are, on average, nearly 80 percent higher than the rates of those who do not.’ The authors explain this finding is internationally consistent.

“These facts have led scholars to conclude the ‘expectation of a positive relationship between cohabitation and marital stability…has been shattered in recent years by studies conducted in several Western countries including Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, and the United States.’”

Yet, the trend away from marriage and toward co-habitation continues to increase in the western world.

Between 1960 and 2009, the number of non-marital cohabiting couples — “sexual partners who are not married to each other but share a household” — in the United States increased more than fifteen-fold, according to “The State of Our Unions: Marriage in America 2010,” produced by the University of Virginia National Marriage Project. About one-fourth of unmarried women 25 to 39 live with a partner and a similar number have done so in the past. [a]

A survey just out from online public opinion pollster SodaHead.com says that 70 percent of Americans approve of couples living together before marriage. That number is higher than research studies have found.  Andrew J. Cherlin, professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University, has recently  authored a book called  The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and Family in America Today.   According to Cherlin, the majority of American adults co-habit before marriage.  Cherlin’s examination hypothesized two possible effects — one that co-habiting could work as a practice marriage, and the opposite, that commitment is lessened, which is what shows up in the studies of people who co-habit before marriage.

Since the 1990, the U.S. Census Bureau says the number of unmarried couples living together has nearly doubled. And a study of marriage released last year by the Pew Research Center notes a “marriage gap” similar to the income gap. Marriage is declining in all groups, but it’s still ultimately the norm for those with a college education and good income. Not so for those who are poor. They are “as likely as others to want to marry, but they place a higher premium on economic security as a condition for marriage.” Lacking that security, fewer marry.  However, forty percent of co-habiting couples who are poor, also have children, while wealthier couples do not.

Children who are born into co-habiting relationships enter a more unstable home, since these relationships often last only a couple of years.  The breakup of people who were living together but not married does not become a divorce statistic, so divorce statistics don’t tell us how many households are dissolving, with terrible effects for children involved.  “In 2008, 41 percent of births were to unmarried mothers and one-fourth lived in single-parent homes. But the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study by Princeton and Columbia universities found half of the parents of children born out of wedlock were living together and 30 percent were romantically involved but living apart.” [a]

About 40 percent of co-habiting relationships evolved into marriage.  The others dissolve, and as mentioned above, the divorce rate for those relationships that do lead to marriage is very high.

The tendency to co-habit is also a factor in the rising age of people entering into first marriages.  Brides in 1960 were likely to be around age 20, and grooms were about age 22.  Now, brides average age 26 and grooms average around age 28.

All studies show that family is a very important aspect of life for just about everyone, and that happily married people are most positive about life.

Updates

The new Pew Forum report released in late 2011 shows marriage rates dropping still further with a drop of 5% in just one year, 2009-2010.  The American recession could have influenced that rate.  More people living together and more people aging without getting married may change the makeup of the American family.

Looking at statistics worldwide, the same trend shows up in all developed countries, independent of financial trends.  [a]  In the U.S. only 51% of households are made up of married people.   Declines are greatest among the uneducated.

The benefits of marriage have been documented.  They include benefits to health, happiness, sexual satisfaction, feelings of security, mental health, optimism, opportunities for affluence, less depression, less tendency to use alcohol or recreational drugs, and a lower mortality risk.   [b]