Living Alone, Cohabiting,
And Marriage
Reasons for More Unmarrieds

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Nearly all Americans say that our families
are very important to us.
Today’s “postmodern” family is
characterized by a diversity of family
forms.
“single” = being unmarried.
Statistics Canada (2011)

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In 2011, 46.4% of the population aged 15 and over
was legally married, while 53.6% was unmarried
In 1981, 60.9% of the population aged 15 and over
was married, while 39.1% was unmarried.
Being Single
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Women are no longer considered a
“spinster” and “old maid”
In the 1950s, if a young woman wasn’t
married by the age of 25, she was
considered an oddity
Singlehood has its upsides and
downsides:
Singles: Their Various Living
Arrangements

Living Alone
 Has increased —up from 8% in 1940.

Living apart together (LAT)
 a couple is engaged in a long-term
relationship but each partner maintains
a separate dwelling.
Singles: Their Various Living
Arrangements


Living with parents
 The % has increased dramatically
 Cultural and economic reasons
Group or Communal Living

designed to provide enhanced
opportunities for social support and
companionship
DePaulo
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Singlism = ways in which single people
are stereotyped, stigmatized, ignored, and
discriminated against.
Defines “single” in 2 ways:
 Legally vs. socially single
Cohabitation and Family Life
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Cohabitation: Nonmarrieds living together
One of the most important changes in
family life in the past 40 years
By 2008, an estimated 58 percent of 30-to
44-year-olds had lived with an opposite sex
partner at some time in their lives—up from
33 percent in 1987
This trend is expected to increase.
The Cohabiting Relationship
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Less likely to say they are happy with their
relationships
Find their relationships less fair
Higher incidence of depression
Place greater importance on sexual frequency
Have more sex outside the relationship
The Cohabiting Relationship

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Relationship quality of “long-term” cohabiting
couples (together for at least 4 years) differ
little from marrieds in conflict levels, amount of
interaction, or relationship satisfaction
For both marrieds and long-term cohabitors,
relationship satisfaction declines with the
addition of children to the household.
Marriage: From Social Institution to
Private Relationship
Marital Status: The Changing Picture

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The proportion of Americans age 18 and
over who are married has declined
significantly
People are also much more likely to be
older at age of first marriage.
Reasons for Getting Married (Taylor et al, 2007)
Survey Question: “Why did you decide to get married
rather than just live together?”
Beliefs that living together was
49%
wrong/religion/upbringing/social norms
Love & commitment
24
Had children (expecting)/wanted children
10
It was time/easier/just wanted to
10
Make a legal commitment
2
Young & stupid
2
Financial reasons/health benefits
1
Other (misc)
8
Don’t know
5

Wedding ceremony reinforces the idea
that the marriage is a permanent bond

Family, friends, and witnesses affirm the
acceptance and legitimacy of the union
Marital Happiness, Success, &
Health

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Marital stability vs. marital satisfaction
Measuring marital satisfaction is important for
2 reasons:
1. longitudinal studies show that marital
unhappiness is a good predictor of divorce.
2. marital unhappiness is linked to a variety of
problematic outcomes, including
inadequate parenting, psychological
distress, and poor physical health
How Marriages Change Throughout the Life
Course
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First year of marriage involves basic
adjustments
After five years, approximately 10% of first
marriages end in divorce, and 25% do so by the
10th year of marriage
Marriage and Children

Marital satisfaction tends to decrease
after a couple has children.

Most parents experience more frequent
conflicts and disagreements after having
children than do childless spouses.
What Couples Fight About

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Men
women give them the
silent treatment,
bring up things the
mean have done in
the remote past,
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Women
forget important
dates (such as
birthdays and
anniversaries)
don’t work hard
enough at their jobs
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