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Cohabitation Shannon N. Davis Carolina Population Center

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Presentation on theme: "Cohabitation Shannon N. Davis Carolina Population Center"— Presentation transcript:

1 Cohabitation Shannon N. Davis Carolina Population Center

2 2 Introductory Questions In contemporary United States society:  Is cohabitation the same as trial marriage?  Is cohabitation an alternative or replacement for marriage?  Why does cohabitation have so little effect on later marriage?  Under what conditions might cohabitation be good preparation for marriage?

3 3 U.S. Cohabiting Couples, 1960-2000

4 4 Coupled Households, Census 2000

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8 8 How do couples decide to cohabit? Cohabitation does not usually result from a conscious decision.  One study found that 2 out of 3 cohabitors were unsure of their original motives.  Another study reported that only 25% of couples discussed cohabitation before moving in together.  For most couples, cohabiting is a gradual process rather than an abrupt change in their relationship. For example, most couples cannot give a “starting date” for when they began cohabiting.

9 9 Explanations for Rise in Cohabitation Cultural Economic “Proximate Causes”

10 10 Western European Policies on Cohabitation Netherlands  Registration of partnerships (both same and opposite sex); 2001 gay marriage law France  Civil Solidarity Pacts (PACS) Sweden, Finland, Denmark  Family law applies to married and cohabiting couples in the same way Germany  Constitutional protection of family is for marriages, not “marriage- like partnerships”

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12 12 Relationship between Cohabitation and Marital Stability Impressive empirical evidence shows that premarital cohabitation tends to be associated with increased likelihood of divorce Recent research on younger cohorts suggests this relationship is diminishing, that the earlier findings may have been capturing a period effect Selection Hypothesis Experiential Effect

13 13 Why focus on the relationship between cohabitation and subsequent marital instability? Concern about the “decline of the family,” specifically the “increased” divorce rate Vast empirical evidence showing the negative effects of marital instability on children If we can document and understand predictors of divorce, we can figure out ways to protect children from these negative outcomes. This presumes:  Living with married, biological parents is always best for children;  A static definition of both cohabitation and marriage;  The underlying causal mechanism for the relationship between cohabitation and marriage would not develop without premarital cohabitation.

14 14 U.S. (Crude) Divorce Rate 1971-2004

15 15 Cohabitation and Children An estimated 40% of children will live in a cohabiting household at some time during their childhood/adolescence. Children already disadvantaged based upon parental income and education are more likely to experience parental cohabitation (also have access to less income than if parents were married). This is just one type of transition children experience; experiencing cohabitation is suggestive of other changes in family structure to come. Cohabiting males are similar to stepfathers in their interaction with their partners’ children.

16 16 Cohabitation, Marriage and Children Children provide a reason to get married  Pregnancy in cohabitation increases likelihood of marriage  Presence of children from previous relationships increases likelihood of marriage  Childbearing in cohabitation reduces likelihood of subsequent breakup.

17 17 Economic Factors and Moving from Cohabitation to Marriage Not just having enough money Marriage signifies that one is no longer struggling economically, that is, marriage comes when one has achieved a certain economic status Home ownership, getting out of debt, financial stability, not living paycheck to paycheck Having sufficient money or savings to afford a “real” wedding Both women and men expect the men to be able to provide for their families

18 18 Changing Definitions of Marriage and Cohabitation in the United States Definition of marriage (to whom, when, how) have changed over time Meaning of cohabitation has also changed  Stigmatized, illegitimate relationships  “Shacking up” and “free love”  Stage in the marriage process  Substitute for/alternative to marriage  Substitute for/alternative to singlehood

19 19 Ideal Types of Cohabitation Marginal  Not prevalent and likely discouraged by public attitudes and policies  Italy, Poland, Spain Prelude to marriage  Exists as a pre-reproductive phase for adults.  Unions tend to be brief, no children, end in marriage.  Belgium, Czech Republic, Hungary, Switzerland

20 20 Ideal Types of Cohabitation Stage in marriage process  Exists as transitory phase in reproduction.  Unions longer and children more likely to be born into a cohabitation than in prelude stage, but marriage is eventual.  Austria, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Slovenia Alternative to single  Cohabitation for brief, non-reproductive unions that end in separation instead of marriage.  New Zealand, United States

21 21 Ideal Types of Cohabitation Alternative to marriage  Is a discrete family component  Adulthood cohabitation prevalent and for longer duration than in alternative to single.  Low % lead to marriage, more exposure to cohabitation during childhood, and for longer duration.  Canada, France

22 22 Ideal Types of Cohabitation Indistinguishable from marriage  Little social distinction between cohabitation and marriage.  Children more likely than in alternative to marriage to experience marriage of parents because cohabitation is not seen as an alternative to marriage.  Sweden, Denmark

23 23 Distribution of Unmarried Households by Partner Type, Census 2000

24 24 Gay and Lesbian Cohabiting Couples Longitudinal data suggest that the relationship processes are more similar to heterosexual couples than dissimilar  No difference in half of measures of relationship functioning  Gay and lesbian partners fared better than married couples for all differences except in perceived levels of social support from family members

25 25 Gay and Lesbian Cohabiting Couples  Gay, lesbian, and married couple relationships work the same way (that is, the “doing” of the relationship) Division of labor based upon economic resources rather than gender (different from married couples?)  Relationship quality declines faster in married couples than in gay and lesbian couples  No difference in rate of relationship dissolution when compared to married couples

26 26 Closing Questions

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