The Effect of Cohabitation on Marriage Essay

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Abstract
The Effect of Cohabitation on Marriage
Several published studies look at the increase in premarital cohabitation and the effect of premarital cohabitation on the traditional marriage relationship from the 1960s to present. Issues considered are marital satisfaction, marital stability, marital communication, and incidents of divorce within each group. Contrary to common perceptions, studies on couples who cohabitated prior to marrying indicate marriages that are less satisfactory, less stable, report poorer communication and higher incidents of divorce when compared to couples who did not cohabitate prior to marriage. Factors that attempt to explain these results are explored. The Effect of Cohabitation on Marriage
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Cohabitation is far more common in other countries such as Sweden, Canada and some Latin American countries and in some cases considered to be legally the same as marriage (Seltzer, 2000, Hall & Zhao, 1995). This paper will focus on cohabitation research as it relates to North American culture and how it effects the traditional institution of marriage. Due to the large amount of research that has been done on this subject this paper will be limited to the effects of cohabitation on first marriages.

Cohabitation used to be considered an unacceptable lifestyle, but data collected over the past twenty years has shown a steady increase over previous generations. In 1980 there were 1.6 million cohabiting couples; by 1990 about 2.9 million couples were cohabiting, and by 1997 that number had increased by 46% to over 4.1 million (Seltzer, 2000; U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000, Table 57). Cohabitation is considered to be “an arrangement of convenience that provides more intimacy, more secure involvement, and less restricted sexual relations than just dating or courting. Possibly, there are some social and economic advantages and conveniences as well” (Tanfer, 1987, p. 494).

Two distinct groups of cohabiting couples have been identified. One group consists of couples who intend to marry and are using this time as a stage in the courtship process. Most cohabitors fall

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