Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Shacking Up

Living Together First Doesn't Make Marriage Last:

Couples who live together before they get married are less likely to stay married, a new study has found. But their chances improve if they were already engaged when they began living together.

The likelihood that a marriage would last for a decade or more decreased by six percentage points if the couple had cohabited first, the study found.

The study of men and women ages 15 to 44 was done by the National Center for Health Statistics using data from the National Survey of Family Growth conducted in 2002. The authors define cohabitation as people who live with a sexual partner of the opposite sex.

I'm not sure why this is a "new study" since we have talked about this example (Cohabitation=Divorce) in my Intro classes for years now. And the reason we talk about it is because it's the classic spurious correlation. The act of "living in sin" itself doesn't cause this, but if we introduce other independent variables into the mix (say, religiosity), then the relationship becomes more clear.

One thing that is interesting, however, is the relationship between education, age, cohabitation and divorce.

Half of couples who cohabit marry within three years, the study found. If both partners are college graduates, the chances improve that they will marry and that their marriage will last at least 10 years.

“The figures suggest to me that cohabitation is still a pathway to marriage for many college graduates, while it may be an end in itself for many less educated women,” said Kelly A. Musick, a professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell.

Couples who marry after age 26 or have a baby eight months or more after marrying are also more likely to stay married for more than a decade.
It's also that way when studying marriage and divorce rates in general (w/out cohabitation as a variable). Generally, the older and more educated you are when you marry, the longer the marriage will last.

The study also offers new racial and ethnic data to throw into the mix.
In general, one in five marriages will dissolve within five years. One in three will last less than 10 years. Those figures varied by race, ethnicity and gender. The likelihood of black men and women remaining married for 10 years or more was 50 percent. The probability for Hispanic men was the highest, 75 percent. Among women, the odds are 50-50 that their marriage will last less than 20 years.

By their early 40s, most white and Hispanic men and women were married, but only 44 percent of black women were.
The power of sociology, next time on "Sociological Perspective".

1 comment:

Dr John Curtis said...

The most important fact that gets overlooked with all types of relationship statistics is that they DON'T to the couple in love.

So let's talk about some of the Advantages of Cohabitation

While marriage is touted as THE only way to truly have a successful, committed relationship, there are many distinct advantages to cohabitation that are often overlooked, a few of which are as follows:

1) Time-bound

One BIG advantage of cohabitation is that it is NOT until death do you part. Instead, it’s more likely bound by the one-year lease you have on your apartment or some other form of limitation set up in your calendar. It can be beneficial to talk upfront about the relationship’s “life-span!” You should consider declaring a particular date 6 or 12 months out, and then sit down at that time to evaluate how well the relationship is going. If things have been good, perhaps you pick a longer time horizon until you do your next check up. If things have not gone well, you’ll more likely find it easier to end the relationship…. the lease is up and so is our time together.
2) Maintain Individuality

One assumption of marriage, like the unity candle ceremony demonstrates during the wedding, is that two people become one. However, suppose you’re not ready to take this bold step. Cohabitation allows you to work on building a relationship without necessarily giving up your individuality. A “separate but equal” approach can help reduce the anxiety that you might feel if you were to “lose yourself” in the relationship. No relationship gets better based on how much you give up to be in it. Living together is a low risk method to see IF you can live with someone, full-time and not diminish your individuality in the process.
3) Eliminate Illusions

It’s been said the if “love is blind” then “marriage is an institution for the blind!” It’s normal that in the early stages of a dating relationship, each partner is trying to put their best foot forward. One of the real shocks that can occur after marriage is to discover that the person you married is not who you thought. Cohabitation affords you the time for the illusions to disappear and the real person to emerge. When this happens in marriage and the image does not match the reality, it can send a shock wave through the marriage and creates a sense of being trapped in a deception. Instead, by living together, while you may be shocked by the reality of your partner’s hygiene habits, lack of anger management, passive-aggressive sniping, at least you’re not trapped… see #1 above.

4) Practice Equality

Successful relationships are about many things including creating a sense of equality. In days gone bye, it was not expected that the man and woman were equals. The man ruled and no one questioned it, despite what may have been disastrous consequences. Now, however, “power with” vs. “power over” is one key to making an intimate relationship work. During the dating phase of a relationship, it’s easy to maintain a “balance of power!” He picks a restaurant, she picks a movie and next time the roles shift. Once you move in together, you have the chance to see just how equal you are with your partner. The question of who controls the TV remote, who cleans the kitchen or who does laundry is quickly answered. The outcome is an important piece of information for you to know about your partner. If you are lucky, your partner values equality and if he or she does not, at least you learned it before walking down the aisle.
While it has been said by many naysayers of cohabitation that you cannot “practice” commitment, I say bunk. Cohabitation has some real advantages over getting married, at least in the short term. The above are just a few.