College of Community Counseling
Throughout history marriage has been considered a state of holy matrimony that bound together two heterosexual people basically till death. This binding contract was accepted and supported by society and the families involved. A person was considered malformed in some way or was in disgrace if they didn’t get married. Cohabitation involves unmarried sexual partners sharing a household. This practice was considered illegal before the 1900’s and is still illegal in some countries today. However, in the last twenty years cohabitation has gone from an obscure social phenomenon to relatively commonplace in the United States. Societal trends are now leaning toward independence instead of marriage and freedom of the individual instead of strength of the union. This poses the question, “Is there a relationship between cohabitation and divorce rate?”
Cohabitation can be defined as the act of two people involved in an emotionally intimate relationship living together who are not married. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012), cohabitation has increasingly become the first co residential union formed among couples in America. Cohabitation as a prelude to marriage began emerging in the United States in the 1970s and has continued to increase in prevalence throughout subsequent decades Svarer (2004). This is evidenced by the statistics that approximately 500,000 individuals in the United States were cohabitating in 1970, whereas approximately 4.9 million individuals in the United States were cohabitating in 2000. Accordingly, approximately 55% of marriages in the United States were preceded by cohabitation in the 1990s, while only 10% of marriages were preceded by cohabitation between 1965 and 1974 (Jose, O’Leary, & Moyer, 2010). As the rate of cohabitation has increased, so has research around this once-considered relationship phenomenon. According to King and Scott (2005), research on cohabitation began increasing considerably in the last 1980s with the focus of the research on documenting trends in cohabitation. However, more recently, researchers have begun examining both the reasons or meanings for cohabitation and the relationship between premarital cohabitation and future divorce rates or dissatisfied marriages. It was originally assumed that couples who cohabitated prior to marriage would have a lower divorce rate than couples who did not as the couples who cohabitated had the opportunity to assess the quality of their relationship and compatibility before marrying (Svarer, 2004). However, researchers have disproportionately found that, when compared to married couples who did not engage in premarital cohabitation, the relationships of premarital cohabiters are less stable and the cohabiters are less committed to their relationships after marriage, often resulting in divorce. Nonetheless, there have also been studies that have found that persons who engage in long-term cohabitating relationships are no more likely to experience distress or dissatisfaction in their relationship than their married counterparts. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control reports that recent research suggests that the association between premarital cohabitation and marital instability may have weakened over time, which could be due to the change in the societal level of acceptance of premarital cohabitation (2012). Factors such as age, race, socioeconomic status, and education level may impact a person’s decision to engage in premarital cohabitation. However, more importantly, it is necessary to become informed about what types of populations are engaging in cohabiting relationships and what is appealing about cohabitation to these populations. Cohabitating Populations
One primary population that engages in cohabitation is couples who either cannot or simply will not marry....
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