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MCAT

Unit 4: Lesson 1

Foundations of behavior passages

To cohabit or not to cohabit?

Problem

Family researchers and demographers have examined the association between premarital cohabitation and marriage. Around 2000, the Census Bureau figures showed four million couples living together outside of marriage (not counting homosexual couples), eight times as many as in 1970. Sociological research on cohabitation showed that most cohabitations are short-lived; they typically last for about a year or a little more and then are either transformed into marriages or dissolve. Unlike Nordic countries where cohabitation is a more stable social arrangement, in the US, cohabitation was not found to be a long-term alternative to marriage. Figure 1 show the probability of a woman’s first cohabitation remaining intact. The numbers were drawn from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, which includes in-home interviews conducted with 12,571 men and women ages 15-44 in the US.
Figure 1: Probability that a woman’s first cohabitation will remain intact (without marriage or disruption) for 1, 3, and 5 years, by race.
In a report published in 2010 on marriage and cohabitation in the US based on the same 2002 survey, researchers found that half of all women between the ages of 15 and 44 had at some point, lived with a partner without being married. In addition, they found that most young couples living together outside of marriage will end up getting married. Figure 2 shows the probability that a first cohabitation becomes a marriage within the first three years.
Figure 2: Probability that a first cohabitation transitions to a marriage within 3 years, by gender and educational attainment: United States, 2002.
As cohabitation becomes more prevalent, sociologists further examine gender differences in the motives and meanings behind cohabitation. Drawing on data from 18 focus groups (n=138) and 54 in-depth interviews with young adults, a new study finds that cohabitation appears to represent greater relationship commitment and greater potential for marriage for women than for men, but for both, the primary motives of cohabitation include spending time together, sharing expenses, and evaluating compatibility. Strong gender differences are also found in how respondents discuss these themes and how they characterize the drawbacks of cohabitation, with men more concerned about loss of freedom and women with delays in marriage.
Sources: US Department of Health and Human Services. (2010).Marriage and Cohabitation in the United States: A Statistical Portrait Based on Cycle 6 of the National Survey of Family Growth. Vital and Health Statistics Series 23(28). Huang et. al. (2011). He Says, She Says: Gender and Cohabitation. Journal of Family Issues 32(7): 876-905. Manning, W.D., & Cohen, J.A. (2012). Premarital Cohabitation and Marital Dissolution: An Examination of Recent Marriages. Journal of Marriage and Family 74(2): 377-387
According to Figure 1, which of the following statement is true?
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