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Cohabitation Affects the Number of Long-Term Relationships

Update Date: Jan 23, 2014 10:14 AM EST

In modern day society, marriages are gradually become sparser with couples in long-term relationships choosing to live together without the necessities of a marriage license. In a new study, researchers set out to examine this growing trend of cohabitation. The researchers concluded that cohabitation, in the long run, plays "a major role" in the overall number of couples that stay together for eight-plus years.

"Cohabiters are very common. There are so many couples that start out cohabiting, and enough of their relationships last that they end up making a significant contribution to the total number of long-term relationships," stated study co-author, Audrey Light, a professor of economics at the Ohio State University according to the press release.

Previous research has suggested that cohabitation results in shorter relationships than marriage within a short time frame. In this study, Light, who worked with Yoshiaki Omori from Yokohama National University in Japan, broadened the relationships' time frames and found that cohabitation contributes more to long-term relationships than previously believed. They used data on 2,761 women who were born between 1960 and 1964. The participants were a part of the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which interviewed them every one or two years from 1979 to 2008.

The researchers reported that for an 18-year-old woman who has never married or cohabited with a partner, her likelihood of getting married to a husband lasting 12 years before the age of 22 is 16 percent. When the researchers added the factor of cohabitation, they found that the woman's chances of marriage or cohabitation lasting more than 12 years jumped to 22 percent. The researchers concluded that even if the young woman is not married, by having previous cohabitation experience, she increased her chances of having a long-term relationship.

"As women get older, they are even more likely than younger people to live together before they get married," Light said. "The same is true for those who are entering second unions. Enough of these cohabiting unions do last that they end up making a huge contribution to the total number of lasting long-term relationships."

Light added, "We are just looking at the contribution cohabiting makes toward the overall number of long-term relationships. These results can't be used to predict whether any individual couple would be better off cohabiting or marrying."

The study was published in journal, Population Research and Policy Review.

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