Gone are the days in which couples follow the rituals of marrying before setting up house, and then having children. It is now socially acceptable for couples to move in together after a mere few months together, and for babies to be born out of wedlock. As more non-married couples live together, the rates of divorce are also going up. But are these two social changes linked?
Arielle Kuperberg, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, studied the correlation between cohabitation and divorce and found that premarital cohabitation does not cause divorce.
Whilst most studies have looked at the age couples were when they began co-habiting, Ms Kuperberg focused on the length of time that couples lived together before marrying, collecting information on more than 7,000 people who had been married at least once.
She looked at when couples moved in together and if/when they divorced, finding no correlation between divorce rates and pre-marital cohabitation. Her findings contradict those from studies in the 70’s that claimed cohabitation caused a spike in divorce due to ‘sliding’, the inclination to get married out of comfort.
Ms Kuperberg’s findings support a 2010 study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which showed an increase in cohabitation before marriage amongst women aged 30 or younger. In 2010, 75% lived with a partner outside of marriage, compared to 70% in 2002 and 62% in 1995. Only 23% of women in 2010 were already married before moving in with their partners, a decrease of 7% in 2002 and 16% in 1995.
During the three year study, 40% of cohabiting couples got married, 32% stayed together and 27% broke up. The study also shows an increase in the length of time that people live together before marrying, with a current-day average of 22months as opposed to 13 months as was the case in 1995.
It seems clear from the studies, and a generally more relaxed social attitude towards pre-marital cohabitation, that such living arrangements before marriage are on the rise, and are not detrimental to a marital relationship.