Premarital Cohabitation and Marital Quality: A Reassessment

Spencer James, Pennsylvania State University
Brett Beattie, Pennsylvania State University

Prior research has established a relationship between premarital cohabitation and subsequent marital outcomes, with cohabitors generally reporting lower marital quality. Using preliminary data from the NLSY97 and borrowing heavily from the strengths of propensity scores, we employ a novel method for concurrently examining the impact of two perspectives (social selection and experience of cohabitation) commonly used to explain the negative relationship outcomes cohabitors experience. Results reveal that the experience of cohabitation is negatively related to marital quality but only when selection factors are not included in the model. We find (preliminary) support for the social selection perspective, thereby supporting prior work. Procedures for estimating the full model are then articulated. This paper, then, makes several contributions, the primary being the ability to model selection into the experience of cohabitation in the same model. These results serve to underscore the complex pathways between union formation, family structure, and marital outcomes.

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Presented in Session 76: Cohabitation, Relationship Quality, and Union Stability