Marriage vs. Premarital Cohabitation - Marriage Essay Example

Marriage vs - Marriage vs. Premarital Cohabitation introduction. Premarital Cohabitation

When a choice is given to pick a subject to debate between “Marriages” and “Premarital Cohabitation”, the writer believes that most would make their case on the former rather than on the later. Irrespective of whether it was a small child, a young person, or a senior citizen in all probability they would all opt to argue in favor of marriage. To come to this conclusion is perhaps the easiest thing as it is the safest possible choice and has moral, religious, legal and rightitious attached to it.  It is also very probable that a majority of people living in premarital cohabitation would also be in favor of this subject while from amongst the married people, we can expect a few “who experienced grapes of marriage to be sour” to definitely be against this subject.  After all, it is a free country and of course every one can put across their point of views, for and against every possible arguable thing.

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Now, to make the case in favor of marriage, we shall try to convincingly analyze through logic, facts and figures why living outside of marriage or rather in premarital cohabitation is less advantageous then living within its parameters.  Under the title “Cohabitation Effect” in the Journal of Marriage and the Family, a study reflects that in Canada, a greater risk to divorce is associated amongst individuals who had premarital cohabited prior to their marriages.

(Hall, et.al, 995) This one study in itself speaks volumes, however, we shall continue with our arguments because each one of them speaks of other volumes provided there is a listener to them. One can understand that in comparison to the present times, people in the past did not live as much in premarital cohabitation as they do now. Hence the dissolutions or rather the increase in the number of divorces in Canada has jumped fourfold since the 1970s with an annual increase that is nine fold. (Dumas and Peron, 1992)

The modern beliefs, assumptions and the popularly accepted perceptions all appear to be poor indicators when it comes to justifying premarital cohabitation as an effective way of knowing and understanding one another, and for ensuring that quality and stability in married life would have some guarantees for success in our present high-divorce societies. In fact, the experience of having lived outside of marriage undermines the very legitimacy of marriage because in times of marital distress, the meaning and respect of living in matrimony has already been diluted.  Thus the experience of having cohabited premaritially and post martially makes divorce a very easy option for backing out of commitments.  Some studies have been conducted to test this hypothesis and prove that cohabiting does reduce commitment to marriage.

(Axinn and Thornton, 1992; Thomson and Colella, 1992)

In sharp opposition to the above analysis, 77% Canadians respondents to the 1984 Fertility Survey assumed that couples cohabiting premaritially was an effective idea to minimize future the risks of divorce.

Strong negative associations between cohabiting and marital stability have been documented very compellingly in various recent articles.  These articles were based on studies that indicated that living together prior to marriage greatly increased the chances of divorce amongst couples. In the related literature to these studies the counterintuitive association between cohabitation and divorce is referred to as the “cohabitation effect”.

(Balakrishnan, et.al 1988; Booth and Johnson, 1988; Bumpass and Sweet, 1989; DeMaris and Leslie, 1984; Teachman and Polonko, 1990)

While considerable evidence has been compiled to prove that cohabits are a select group distinctly linked to marital instability, but they do raise questions like if parental divorce, marital homogamy or the stepchildren effect could be responsible for their cohabitation effect.

In general cohabitors differ from noncohabitors in various different ways such as the embracement of unconventional family ideologies in comparison to the conventional family ideologies upheld by noncohabititors. (Axinn & Thornton, 1992; Booth & Johnson, 1988; Stets & Straus, 1989; Thomson & Colella, 1992) Cohabitors are more likely to have parents who are divorced (Axinn & Thornton, 1993; Thornton, 1985, 1991) and seem less concerned about marital status, marital homogamy and age in their choice of partners. (Schoen and Weinick, 1993) (Tanfer, 1987)  Besides this, cohabitors are also more likely to have stepchildren in comparison to noncohabitors. (Bumpass et.al, 1991)

Many children who experienced the turmoil of their parental divorces were highly vulnerable to disruption of their own marriages according to a longitudinal research carried out by Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989). Analysis also proved that such children are less likely to have proper commitment to their marriages would enjoy lower quality of marital life and are at higher risk levels of divorce than children whose parents remained committed to their marriages. (Amato and Keith, 1991; Glenn, Kramer, 1987) Besides these facts, one of the main problem being faced in marriages is on account of the relationships married couples have maintain with the children of former spouses. (Nett, 1988)

When we analyze the premarital cohabitation and marital disruption along racial and ethnic lines in North America, we can make the following conclusions (Phillips et al, 2005):

Individuals engaged in odd behaviors of having premarital sex with or without cohabiting with multiple partners are from a selective group less committed to the notion of permanent relationship or marriage with only one person.  However, when such individuals commit themselves to marital or any relationship with permanence, their attitude to build upon their relationships may be less conducive to stability and over time the risks of marital disruption would increase.

On the other hand, women who cohabit and have premarital sex with only their spouses do not experience as high levels of instability as those who cohabit with more than one individual or those who have premarital sex with individuals other than their spouse. However, marital disruptions are more evident amongst white women in comparison to black women when they cohabit with individuals other than their spouse.

Furthermore, marital disruption risk factors differ across different groups of people with particularly to premarital cohabitation.  For instance with non-Hispanic white women premarital cohabitation is associated more positively with subsequent marital disruption in comparison to non-Hispanic black of Mexican American women. The levels of marital disruption vary in relation to different racial and ethnic groups as per various researches carried out in the United States.  Within the first 10 years of marriage, 32% of non-Hispanic and 34% Hispanic women’s first marriages end in divorce or separation, while for Hispanic black women the figures are substantially higher at 47% of all marriages (Bramlett, Mosher, 2002) (Raley, Bumpass, 2003).

Blacks in comparison to Whites are more likely to conceive and give birth as per various studies carried out during cohabiting periods (Loomis, Landale, 1994) (Manning, 200)

(Manning, Landale, 1996). The trend to have children together indicates the significance of couple’s commitment towards their relationships and their sense of sharing responsibilities together (Seltzer, 2003). Thus to a great extent these results prove indirectly that among Blacks the status of childbearing while cohabiting is a more acceptable way of family life than among the White people. Even though Black people are more likely to experience cohabitation as their first union in comparison, it is to be noted here that they are not as approving of cohabitation practices as White people are (Bumpass and Sweet, 1992; Carter, 2000). It is often because of the perceived higher levels of economic disadvantage amongst Blacks and regardless of their desirability factors, cohabitation serves as a substitute for marriage for many of them (Casper and Bianchi, 2002) (Manning and Smock, 2002).  This interpretation is also supported by the likely plans most cohabits make and report about their intentions to eventually marry their partners, however, these plans are realized more by Whites in comparison to Blacks (Brown, 2000; Bumpass et al 1991)

Cohabitation is also more likely to function as substitutions for marriage on similar lines as the Black people for Mexican American and Hispanics, with Hispanic women more likely to conceive children while cohabiting.  Hispanic women also significantly report their pregnancies as intended ones (Manning, 2001; Musick, 2002). Research studies in these matters therefore suggest that planned childbearing among Hispanics may be considered in context of being a particularly important point of view during cohabitation.

Generally the number of risk factors considered in divorce vary with some studies suggesting that women’s employment may be associated with the inclination to divorce (White, 1990), however it can not be stated with clarity whether this risk factor operates with similarity across all racial and ethnic groups. Family backgrounds, religions, education, age and spouse characteristics are also factors that may affect the risk of disruption in marital and cohabitation statuses (Bumpass, et.al, 1991). Notably, statistical studies indicate that 43% White women and 44.3% Black women and 27.9% Mexican American are likely to have cohabited before marriage (e.g., (Bumpass and Sweet, 1989) (Landale and Forste1991; Loomis et al., 1994).

However, in most cases of premarital cohabitation in all groups individuals involve themselves only with their future spouses before their first marriages, and their percentage breakdown are 84.7% of Black women, 84.2% of Mexican American women and 79.8% of White women.

The education levels of individuals involved with premarital cohabitation also plays a significant role across racial and ethnic groups towards marital dissolution.  Surprisingly, mothers with less than 12 years of schooling generally decreased the risk of marital disruption in White and Black individuals, indicating perhaps that less education enabled mothers to pass on better traditional values and paternal attitudes and instincts that discouraged divorce options of their children.

The risk of marital disruption in Whites as well as Blacks is also reduced by 58% in White people and 60% in Black people when they marry at the mature ages between the 27 and 30 years than for individuals who marry as teenagers.

Studies have not been specifically made to investigate cohabitation among the Hispanic groups, but their results suggest that more non-Hispanic Whites opt to be in trial marriages and cohabit while the purpose of cohabitation amongst Blacks is more likely to serve as a substitution for marriage (Casper and Sayer, 2000).

A recent study to examine relationships between premarital cohabitation experience and marital communication was conducted to understand the finding, “cohabitation effect” amongst couples who had cohabited before marriage to assess if they had greater marital instability than couples who did not cohabit. The marital problem solving and social support behavior was observed as an experiment of premarital cohabitation experiences of 92 couples in their first 2 years of their first marriages. Results showed that couples who had cohabited before marriage demonstrated less positive and more negative support behaviors and problem capabilities than spouses who had not cohabited. However, “their interpersonal, intrapersonal and socio-demographical functioning variables did not account for the association between cohabitation experience and marital communication”. (Cohan and Kleinbaum, 2002)

The three basic hypotheses as to why cohabitors are more likely to divorce can be explained as the association between marital instability and cohabitation may be because of an artifact of union duration as during the early years of marriage, there normally is some decline in marital satisfaction (Kurdek, 1999). However, with regard to the union duration periods, there are mixed results as to how they affect the risks of divorces among cohabitors who later marry. (Teachman and Polonko, 1990; Teachman et al, 1991)
The second probable answer is the selection effect factor among cohabitors who later marry in relations to divorce, as these individuals most likely have backgrounds that put them at more risks due to lesser education, lower income, premarital pregnancy and childbirth, previous divorce, parental divorce etc. (Bennett et al, 1988; Bumpass and Sweet, 1989; Teachman et al, 1990). Furthermore, it has been observed that young individuals who are less religious are more likely to enter cohabiting relationship (Axinn and Barber, 1997; Thornton et al, 1992)
The third reason for the cohabitation effect could be the experience of cohabitation itself.

In comparison to individuals who have not cohabited, the individual values and lowered threshold levels for breaking off relationships are higher in individuals who cohabit. In later stages such individuals generally experience instability with increased acceptance of divorce and decreased levels in religious beliefs. (Axinn and Thornton, 1992; Thornton et al., 1992) Furthermore, longer duration periods of cohabitation were also linked to lesser interests in marriage and children.  Divorces were more easily accepted by individuals who had previously dissolved their cohabitation relationships (Axinn et al., 1997). As cohabitation allows more freedom than interdependence, it can be a reason for people to become less conventional and lowers their commitment towards the maintaining of permanent romantic relationship. (Schoen and Weinick, 1993)

Studies have proven that married individuals enjoy better marital satisfaction as they spend more time together in shared activities and are more supportive of each other and have better ability to solve their problems in comparison the individuals who cohabit. (Amato and Booth, 1997; Booth and Johnson, 1988; Cohan & Kleinbaum, 2002; DeMaris and Leslie, 1984; Thomson and Colella, 1992)

Prior to the 1970s only 10% of marriages were preceded by cohabitation, comparatively in our modern times this ratio has risen to more than 50%. This fact therefore confirms that living together has become unexceptional and a norm in American culture. (Dush et al, 2003) Studies however also indicate that in comparison to men, more women reported decline in the quality of their marital life after a two year duration of married life. (VanLangingham et al, 2001; Amato et al, 2003)

Research studies also show that individuals have started choosing risky cohabiting partner in comparison to when they marry with high earning, different living styles, employment, education as less important requisites for cohabitation. (Clarkberg, 1999; Clarkberg et al 1995; Landale and Forste, 1991; Schoen and Weinick, 1993)

While the United States holds the highest record for divorces with the United Kingdom not closer in numbers but at second place. In this regard, it is surprising to note that the number of marriages in the United States is at their lowest average in 40 years, while on the other hand there are now eight times more cohabiting couples than there were in the 1970s. It is probable that the reason for the decrease in marriages have been because of the changed divorce laws ushered in between the period 1970 and 1985.  These laws have made it faster and profitable for individuals to choose divorce then to receive one. (Witcher, 2004) Various studies such as the one by Leora Friedberg’s in the American Economic Review (June 1998), indicate that the statutory change to unilateral divorce laws, independent of other factors, have caused the divorce rate to increase dramatically. It seems that the phrase “Divorce begets cohabitation”, has come around in circle as individuals whose parents divorced are now much more likely to choose cohabitation over marriage.

With cohabitation now being considered as a normal way of life, cheating outside of a relationship among cohabiting couples has greatly increased, thus this has greatly reduced the sense of security between cohabiting partners in comparison to married people.

Another alarming rise has been the risk of unnatural parents in a cohabiting household severely abusing a non-biological child. These risks are probably 30 higher risks in comparison to households where children are raised by both biological parents.

Furthermore, when we look at the disadvantages related to cohabitation relationships in comparison to marriage relationships, we can easily observe how most of the cohabiting couples do not have the feeling of oneness and keep everything economically separate. This perhaps may have advantages when cohabiting partners are young but the same can not be true because eventually everyone gets old, and if one partner decides to not be supportive and goes his own way, all is lost in old age. The author of Suddenly Alone (1998), Catherine Wannamaker makes the above point very clear where she sees frequent media reports of abandoned and homeless senior citizens, who had cohabited to retain a deceased spouse’s health insurance or to preserve eligibility for Medicaid etc. In many cases cohabiting partners have make promise of willing a cohabited home to a remaining partner. Promises however, are no guarantee to a likely abandoned and homeless senior citizen if they are not kept.

An important statistic against cohabiting individuals is the likely psychological suffering children have to go through when individuals sometimes casually walk out of relationships when there is no legal binding on them. Comparatively children of stable, married couples are psychologically, mentally and emotionally fitter than those with cohabiting or divorced parents. On the other hand marriages have their advantages for instance, all religions are on its side and they all encourage and recognize marriages. Perhaps they may have little net influence on union disruption but religions sometimes play a major role in the probability factors of marriages (Lehrer and Chiswick 1993). In a generalized way of speaking, we can not change the status of our relationships acquired from our maternal and paternal linkages, and that includes what siblings we have. But we can create new relationships through our children – so why not create them through marriages for our own sakes and for the sakes of our children; after all marriages have the maximum probabilities of survival throughout our personalized histories.

Detailed studies have been made of plus twelve journals dealing on this subject, where comparisons were difficult to make from. All twelve of them, which are listed below in a collectively generalized way confirm that the probabilities of disrupted marital harmony are much, much higher when couples cohabit or marry after having cohabited in comparison with couples who marry without cohabiting. These journals have dealt with the subject in various environments and have varied in some ways with regard to researches and studies referred therein.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

Amato, P. R., & Keith, B. (1991). Parental divorce and adult well-being: A meta-analysis. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53, 43-58.

 

Amato, P. R., & Booth, A. (1997). A generation at risk: Growing up in an era of family upheaval. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

 

Amato, P. R., Johnson, D. R., Booth, A., & Rogers, S. J. (2003). Continuity and change in marital quality between 1980 and 2000. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65, 1-22.

 

Axinn, W. G., & Thornton, A. (1992). The relationship between cohabitation and divorce: Selectivity or causal influence? Demography, 29, 357-374.

 

Axinn, W. G., & Thornton, A. (1993). Mothers, children, and cohabitation: The intergenerational effects of attitudes and behavior. American Sociological Review, 58, 233-246.

 

Axinn, W. G., & Barber, J. S. (1997). Living arrangements and family formation attitudes in early adulthood. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 59, 595611.

 

Balakrishnan, T. R., Rao, K. V., Lapierre-Adamcyk, E., & Krotki, K. J. (1987). A hazard model analysis of the covariates of marriage dissolution in Canada. Demography, 24, 395-406.

 

Bennett, N. G., Blanc, A. K., & Bloom, D. E. (1988). Commitment and the modern union: Assessing the link between premarital cohabitation and subsequent marital stability. American Sociological Review, 53, 127-138.

 

Booth, A., & Johnson, D. (1988). Premarital cohabitation and marital success. Journal of Family Issues, 9, 255-272.

 

Bramlett, M. D., & Mosher, W. D. (2002). Cohabitation, marriage, divorce, and remarriage in the United States. In Vital and Health Statistics (Series 23, No. 22). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

 

Brown, S. L. (2000). Union transitions among cohabitors: The significance of relationship assessments and expectations. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62, 833-846.

 

Bumpass, L. L., & Sweet, J. A. (1989). National estimates of cohabitation. Demography, 26, 615-625.

 

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Casper, L. M., & Bianchi, S. M. (2002). Continuity and change in the American family. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

 

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Cohan, C. L., & Kleinbaum, S. (2002). Toward a greater understanding of the cohabitation effect: Premarital cohabitation and marital communication. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 180-192.

 

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Commitment and the Modern Union: Assessing the Link between Premarital Cohabitation and Subsequent Marital Stability Bennett, Neil G; Blanc, Ann Klimas; Bloom, David E  American Sociological Review; Feb 1988; 53, 1; Research Library

 

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Schoen, R., & Weinick, R. M. (1993). Partner choice in marriages and cohabitations. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 55, 408-414.

 

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Tanfer, K. (1987). Patterns of premarital cohabitation among never-married women in the United States. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 49, 483-497.

 

Teachman, J. D., & Polonko, K. A. (1990). Cohabitation and marital stability in the United States. Social Forces, 69, 207-220.

 

Teachman, J. D., Thomas, J., & Paasch, K. (1991). Legal status and the stability of coresidential unions. Demography, 28, 571-586.

 

Thomson, E., & Colella, U. (1992). Cohabitation and marital stability: Quality or commitment? Journal of Marriage and the Family, 54, 259-267

 

Thornton, A. (1985). Changing attitudes toward separation and divorce: Causes and consequences. American Journal of Sociology, 90, 856-872.

 

Thornton, A. (1991). Influence of the marital history of parents on the marital and cohabitational experiences of children. American Journal of Sociology, 96, 868-894.

 

Thornton, A., Axinn, W. G., & Hill, D. H. (1992). Reciprocal effects of religiosity, cohabitation, and marriage. American Journal of Sociology, 98, 628-651.

 

Thomson, E., & Colella, U. (1992). Cohabitation and marital quality and stability: Quality or commitment? Journal of Marriage and the Family, 54, 259-267.

 

The relationship between cohabitation and marital quality and stability: Change across cohorts? Claire M Kamp Dush, Catherine L Cohan, Paul R Amato. Journal of Marriage and Family. Minneapolis: Aug 2003.Vol.65

 

Unmarried Cohabitation And Union Stability: Testing The Role Of Diffusion Using Data From 16 European Countries* Aart C Liefbroer, Edith Dourleijn. Demography. Washington:May 2006. Vol. 43

 

Unmarried Cohabitation and Union Stability:  Testing the Role of Diffusion Using Data From 16 European Countries  Aart C. Liefbroer  Edith Dourleijn

 

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