Impact of cohabitation on marriage quality

Document Type:Thesis

Subject Area:Sociology

Document 1

Ironically the very reason that leads one to cohabitate contribute to reasons for marital dissatisfaction. According to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, 66 percent of married couples have cohabitated before getting married. In the United States, it has become common practice to cohabitate during the process of family formation (Heuveline & Timberlake, 2004). Nowadays, cohabitation has turned out to be a substitute for marriage among young couples. Most individuals with the intention of forming unions often opt to cohabit instead of marrying. According to Axinn & Thornton (1992), couples who live together before marriage tend to differ in some ways from those who do not. Such differences increase the possibilities of having a poor quality marriage and subsequent divorce. Some of the common characteristics among cohabiting couples may include, poverty, low educational background, living in broken homes, being non-religious and having modern attitudes towards marriage.

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Divorce in marriages among couples who have previously cohabited is attributed to the experience of parental divorce. Cherlin & Chase-Lansdale (1995) argue that most children that have experienced the divorce of their parents especially in the developed countries differ in characteristics from those who do not in terms of leaving home, forming a union and childbearing attitudes. These new social interactions would, as a result, lead to changes in marriage values among young people. Axinn & Thornton (1992) also argue that the reason why there are increased cases of cohabitation is that couples are responding to the rising rates of divorce. This is an effort to argue that high cases of divorce have led people to question marriage as an institution. As a result, marriage is thought to be a highly delicate relationship that raises the concern of divorce as an outcome for many people.

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People have also become aware of the negative impacts of divorce such as the breakage of family ties and economic deprivation. DeMaris & Rao (1992) in another study found that premarital cohabitation despite the nature of the arrangement is linked with the increased risk of poor quality of marriage. In the study, it was proven that cohabitation arrangements usually favor those people who have weak commitments to marriage as an institution. The lack of commitment to the institution of marriage implies that couples that had previously cohabited are more than ready to terminate an unsatisfactory relationship and less willing to make that relationship satisfactory than couples in other marriage unions (Lillard, Brien, & Waite 1995). Couples who cohabit are usually in approval of divorce as the only option to end marital problems. Such attitudes tend to result in increased rates of divorce as well as cases of separation among couples (Lillard, Brien, & Waite 1995).

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Cohabiting couples also tend to bring with them certain characteristics into marriage making the union more difficult and eventually leading to divorce. The length of the cohabitation also affects an individual’s perspective of marriage and most of them view separation or divorce as the only best alternative to marriage problems. Such reasons lead to unstable marriages after cohabitation. References Axinn, W. G. Chase-Lansdale, P. L. Parental divorce in childhood and demographic outcomes in young adulthood. Demography, 32, 299-318. DeMaris, A. M. “The Role of Cohabitation in Family Formation: The United States in Comparative Perspective”. Journal of marriage and the family, 66(5), 1214–1230. Lillard, L. A. J. Maybe I do Interpersonal commitment levels and premarital or non-marital cohabitation. Journal of Family Issues, 25, 496-519. Teachman, J. D.

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