Growth of Cohabitation Couples
Cohabitation refers to an unmarried couple who live together. Living together before marriage is no longer taboo, instead it has become an accepted and expected milestone of adulthood. Cohabitation isn’t a new phenomenon, in fact it became prevalent in the 1970s due to the sexual revolution and the access of birth control. It has become increasingly prevalent over the past three decades. A total of 4.9 million households consisted of heterosexual cohabiting couples in 2000. The United States is not the only country to have seen an increase in cohabitation, other western countries have also seen rapid growth in cohabitation. According to a recent Barna study, two-thirds of adults in America are “fine” with cohabitation. Not only are young adults accepting cohabitation as a norm, but a growing number of parents are also accepting cohabitation.
The findings in this paper prove the hypothesis that cohabitation directly threatens the institute of marriage. It is true for developed countries like America where experts are of the opinion that ‘traditional marriage may be becoming less important in social terms’ and that ‘marriage as an institution is threatened and losing its centrality in developed countries like the United State’. However, the hypothesis doesn’t hold true for developing countries like Philippines, India and Pakistan where cohabitation is fairly restricted to the upper class of the society. The extent to which cohabitation threatens the institute of marriage in these developing countries depends upon the social acceptance of the phenomenon. Although recent rulings of the superior courts in developing countries like India have been favorable towards cohabitation but studies suggest that many Hindus, Muslims and Parsis have not approved this way of living because it is considered immoral according to their Holy Scriptures. Hence, cohabitation doesn’t directly threaten the institute of marriage in these societies. Experts suggest that the open discussions on cohabitation and its increased social acceptance in the developed countries like America are indeed the ‘most striking aspects of the social and sexual revolution of the past decade or so’. Cohabitation is not that socially accepted in the developing countries like Philippines, India and Pakistan but studies suggest that there is high assimilation in patterns of upper class of these societies towards those of the white population. Hence, experts predict that the legal, religious, psychological, and social distinction between being married and not being married will continue to blur even in the developing societies.
Cohabitation is increasingly common in the United States, with the majority of couples now living together before marriage. This paper briefly reviews research on cohabitation, its association with marital distress and divorce for those who marry (the cohabitation effect), gender differences, and theories underlying this association. Suggestions are made for future areas of exploration in this field, and the implications of the existing research for relationship education efforts and clinical intervention with couples are discussed. In relationship education, it seems important to help individuals explore their own expectations about cohabitation as well as how cohabitation may or may not change their relationships and influence future relationship goals (Cohan CL, Kleinbaum S., 2002). With regard to cohabiting couples presenting for therapy, clinicians may need to help them consider how cohabitation may have affected their commitment levels, plans for the future, and power dynamics. For married couples in therapy, it may be useful for some to look at the process by which they married and to recommit or clarify commitments made together. Across all of these forms of clinical practice, we recommend a focus on building communication skills so that individuals and couples have the skills necessary to talk about issues, particularly issues related to commitment (DeMaris A, Rao V., 1992).
After all, these findings give little support to the notion that many people cohabit outside marriage because cohabitation is more congruent with a project of the self, as individualisation theory would have it. Instead research seems to indicate that many traditional norms about relationships still hold true and cohabitation is seen as the equivalent of marriage. Cohabitation is socially accepted as equivalent to marriage and whilst marriage is seen as ideal, social attitudes show great tolerance to different styles of partnering and parenting relationships.
Cohan CL, Kleinbaum S. Toward a greater understanding of the cohabitation effect: Premarital cohabitation and marital communication. Journal of Marriage and Family. 2002;64(1):180–192.
DeMaris A, Rao V. Premarital cohabitation and subsequent marital stability in the United States: A reassessment. Journal of Marriage and Family. 1992;54(1):178–190.
Fields J. Current Population Report, P20-553. U.S. Census Bureau; Washington, D.C.: 2004. America's families and living arrangements: March 2003.