Research debunks theories on link between cohabitation and divorce

In the past, gender roles were largely dictated by society. As such, both men and women grew up with certain expectations related to what to expect from one another and society at large. As such, the vast majority of men and women did not live together until after marriage. Today, the only real rule related to gender roles is that there are no rules.

The percentage of unmarried U.S. couples who live together has increased 900 percent in the last 50 years. The dramatic increase in the number of cohabitating couples has resulted in a number of studies being conducted related to the matter. While previous studies seemed to indicate that cohabitation prior to marriage was a precursor to splitting up or divorcing, new research refutes such claims.

Rather than focus solely on cohabitation, researchers at the Council in Contemporary Families instead looked at the age at which couples began living together. This fresh approach to the topic resulted in researchers determining that cohabitation prior to marriage alone is not a predictor of divorce. Rather researchers contend the age at which individuals choose to cohabitate is the biggest determinant in whether the couple splits or stays together. One university researcher notes that this new approach to the link between cohabitation and divorce ultimately forces people to focus more on the complexities of life and relationships rather than an individual’s character.

For example, both unmarried and married cohabitating couples who were younger than 23 were more likely to split. Researchers site maturity and financial stability that typically accompanies age as being factors that positively impact the long-term outcome for both married and unmarried cohabitating couples. For these couples, the decision to cohabitate is more likely to be driving by a desire to further the relationship than simply out of financial necessity.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor, “Best predictor of divorce? Age when couples cohabit, study says,” Stephanie Hanes, March 10, 2014

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