The Cohabitation Conundrum

Authored by: Catherine L. Cohan

Handbook of Family Theories

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  March  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415879453
eBook ISBN: 9780203075180
Adobe ISBN: 9781135118754


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The marked increase in premarital cohabitation over the last 50 years in the US is part of a constellation of interrelated changes in family demography along with increased divorce rates, declining rates of marriage, increased age at first marriage, and extramarital childbearing (Bramlett & Mosher, 2002; Kreider, 2005). The children who experienced the surge in divorces among their parents were more likely to cohabit with a romantic partner when they became young adults (Sassler, Cunningham, & Lichter, 2009; Thornton, 1991). As the proportion of unmarried partners living together increased, so has the proportion of children who are born to and live with unmarried partners (Bumpass & Lu, 2000; Kennedy & Bumpass, 2008). In turn, children who live with a cohabiting parent may be more likely to cohabit when they become young adults (Sassler et al., 2009). Thus, in just a few generations, cohabitation has become integral to contemporary romantic relationships.

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