Cohabitation and Marital Dissolution: The Significance of Marriage Cohort

Wendy D. Manning, Bowling Green State University
Jessica A. Cohen, Bowling Green State University

An ongoing question has been to explain why a positive association between cohabitation and marital dissolution exists when one of the primary reasons to cohabit is to test relationship compatibility. Recently, researchers have discovered that the relationship between cohabitation and marital instability is complex and depends in part on marriage cohort, race/ethnicity, and marriage plans. Drawing on the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth, we examine whether and to what extent variation in premarital cohabitation experiences influence marital stability. Our analyses reveal that a ‘cohabitation effect’ exists only for early marriage cohorts and there is no cohabitation effect among more women married since 1996. Furthermore, among women married prior to 1996 only white and foreign-born Hispanic women experience a cohabitation effect. In addition, the cohabitation effect among women in the later marriage cohort is masked until marriage plans are considered. This research contributes to our understanding of cohabitation, marital instability and broader family change.

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