Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

What does the new Guzzo study tell us about the instability of cohabitation?

I blogged about a new study on cohabitation earlier in the month, but I only had the abstract. Now more details are out, from Family-Studies.org.

First, some context:

In a new paper, Bowling Green State University sociologist Karen Guzzo analyzes how the odds of cohabitation leading to either getting married or breaking up have changed over the years. Before getting to her findings, let’s review some of the cohabitation trends she highlights in her report (based on prior studies).

  1. The majority of people in their 30s have lived with someone outside of marriage.
  2. Cohabitation, rather than marriage, is now the more common form of first union.
  3. Fewer marriages than in the past start out with the couple having intentions to marry.
  4. People are more likely than ever to cohabit with multiple partners in succession—what I have called “CohabiDating.”
  5. More children than ever before are born to cohabiting couples, and this explains most of the rise in the number of children being born out of wedlock.

Guzzo notes, as have others, that cohabiting has become a normative experience in the romantic and sexual lives of young adults. As young adults put off marriage until later in life, cohabitation has inhabited much of the space that used to be made up of married couples. I think this dramatic change in how relationships form matters for at least two reasons. First, many cohabiting couples have children, but they are less likely than married couples to have planned to have children and they are much less likely to remain together after having children… Second, most people want lasting love in life, and most people still intend to accomplish that in marriage.

Here is the main finding of the new paper:

To simplify and summarize, what Guzzo found is that the increasing diversity in the types of cohabitation and cohabiters does not explain much about why things are so different from the past when it comes to increased odds that cohabiting couples will break up or not marry. Rather, on average, all types of cohabiting couples have become more likely than in the past to break up or not transition into marriage.

Here’s a quote from her paper (pg. 834):

Relative to cohabitations formed between 1990 and 1994, cohabitations formed from 1995–1999, 2000–2004, and 2005 and later were 13%, 49%, and 87%, respectively, more likely to dissolve than remain intact. The lower risk of marriage over remaining intact occurred only for the last two cohabitation cohorts (2000–2004 and 2005 and later), which were about 18% and 31% less likely to marry than remain intact, respectively.

Moving in together is becoming less and less likely to lead to having a future together. That’s not to say that all cohabiters are in the same boat regarding their destination. Those who are engaged (or have clear plans to marry) before moving in together are far more likely to eventually marry—but as Guzzo shows, even they are becoming less likely to do so. Related to this, my colleagues and I have shown, in numerous studies, that couples with clear plans to marry before cohabiting, along with those who marry without cohabiting, tend to have happier marriages and lower odds of divorce than those who move in together before having a clearly settled commitment to the future in marriage. (We believe this is largely because, while cohabiting unions obviously break up often, they are harder to break off than dating relationships because it becomes harder to move out and move on. So some people get stuck in a relationship they would otherwise have not remained in.)

[...]Cohabitation is fundamentally ambiguous. In fact, that is part—but just part—of why I believe it has become so popular. Sure, there are many cohabiting couples for whom living together was understood as a step-up in commitment, but, on average, research shows it is not associated with an increase in dedication to one’s partner.

So those are the findings from the latest study. You can find more studies on cohabitation linked here in my previous post on this topic.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

New study: cohabitation more likely to dissolve, less likely to lead to marriage

All I have on this is the abstract, but if someone can send me the study, I’d love to see the results section.

Abstract:

Cohabitation is now the modal first union for young adults, and most marriages are preceded by cohabitation even as fewer cohabitations transition to marriage. These contrasting trends may be due to compositional shifts among cohabiting unions, which are increasingly heterogeneous in terms of cohabitation order, engagement, and the presence of children, as well as across socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. The author constructs 5-year cohabitation cohorts for 18- to 34-year-olds from the 2002 and 2006–2010 cycles of the National Survey of Family Growth (n = 17,890 premarital cohabitations) to examine the outcomes of cohabitations over time. Compared to earlier cohabitations, those formed after 1995 were more likely to dissolve, and those formed after 2000 were less likely to transition to marriage even after accounting for the compositional shifts among individuals in cohabiting unions. Higher instability and decreased chances of marriage occurred among both engaged and non-engaged individuals, suggesting society-wide changes in cohabitation over time.

Evidence Unseen has collected some of the other studies together.

Excerpt

Hall and Zhao (from the University of Western Ontario) studied 8,177 individuals who were ever-married. They write, “Premarital cohabitors in Canada have over twice the risk of divorce in any year of marriage when compared with noncohabitors.”[13]

Manning (et al.) writes, “Over 50% of cohabiting unions in the US, whether or not they are eventually legalized by marriage, end by separation within five years compared to roughly 20% for marriages.”[14]

Daniel Lichter and Zhenchao Qian (from Cornell University and The Ohio State University) write, “If serial cohabitors married, divorce rates were very high—more than twice as high as for women who cohabited only with their eventual husbands.”[15]

And finally, there’s this study from Life Site News.

Excerpt:

Couples who reserve sex for marriage enjoy greater stability and communication in their relationships, say researchers at Brigham Young University.

A new study from the Mormon college found that those couples who waited until marriage rated their relationship stability 22 percent higher than those who started having sex in the early part of their relationship. The relationship satisfaction was 20 percent higher for those who waited, the sexual quality of the relationship was 5 percent better, and communication was 12 percent better.

The study, published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Family Psychology, involved 2,035 married individuals who participated in a popular online marital assessment called “RELATE.” From the assessment’s database, researchers selected a sample designed to match the demographics of the married American population. The extensive questionnaire included the question “When did you become sexual in this relationship?”

Couples that became sexually involved later in their relationship – but prior to marriage – reported benefits that were about half as strong as those who waited for marriage.

[...]Sociologist Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin, who was not involved in the study, responded to its findings, saying that “couples who hit the honeymoon too early – that is, prioritize sex promptly at the outset of a relationship – often find their relationships underdeveloped when it comes to the qualities that make relationships stable and spouses reliable and trustworthy.” Regnerus is the author of Premarital Sex in America, a book forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

Because religious belief often plays a role for couples who choose to wait, Busby and his co-authors controlled for the influence of religious involvement in their analysis.

“Regardless of religiosity, waiting helps the relationship form better communication processes, and these help improve long-term stability and relationship satisfaction,” Busby said.

Young men and women growing up really need to be informed by their parents what they are going to want to be doing long term, and what they should be doing today to accomplish those goals. Young people benefit greatly from the guidance of older and wiser people, but in defining goals and defining the steps to reach those goals. To be a convincing parent, you have to be convinced yourself. And to be convinced yourself, you need to be seen as having knowledge, not just opinions, but knowledge. Having the right peer-reviewed papers at hand will help you to be a better parent.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How involved fathers improve the mental health of their daughters

I found this article in Scientific American via tweet from Stand to Reason.

Excerpt:

In a series of studies beginning in 1999, he found that when girls had a warm relationship with their fathers and spent a lot of time with them in the first five to seven years of their lives, they had a reduced risk of early puberty, early initiation of sex and teen pregnancy. As Ellis continued this work, however, he became increasingly frustrated. Clearly, the association between fathers and daughters was profound. Yet he could not determine whether the parental behavior caused the consequences he was seeing in the daughters. An alternative was that girls who begin puberty early and engage in risky sexual behavior do so because they inherited certain genes from their parents. Fathers might pass on genes linked to infidelity to their daughters, in whom they could be associated with risky sexual behavior and early puberty. Or something else in the family’s environment could be responsible for the changes in their daughters.

Ellis came up with an innovative way to pose the question. He considered families in which divorced parents had two daughters separated by at least five years in age. When the parents divorced, the older sister would have had five more years with a father’s consistent presence than the younger sister. If father absence causes early puberty and risky behavior, then the younger daughter should show more of that behavior than her older sibling. Also, genes or the family’s environment would not confuse the results, because those would be the same for both daughters. It was close to a naturally occurring experiment, Ellis realized.

Ellis recruited families with two daughters. Some were families in which the parents divorced; others were intact, to be used as a control group. He wanted to answer two questions: Was the age at which girls had their first menstrual period affected by the length of time they spent with a father in the house? And did that age vary depending on how their fathers behaved? The second question was added because fathers with a history of violence, depression, drug abuse or incarceration can affect children’s development.

Ellis’s suspicions were confirmed. Younger sisters in divorced families had their first periods an average of 11 months earlier than their older sisters—but only in homes in which the men behaved badly as fathers. “We were surprised to get as big an effect as we did,” Ellis told me. The conclusion was that growing up with emotionally or physically distant fathers in early to middle childhood could be “a key life transition” that alters sexual development.

The next step Ellis took was to look at whether these circumstances could affect the involvement of girls in risky sexual behavior. This time he turned to Craigslist, a classified advertising Web site, and posted announcements in several cities that began, “SISTERS WANTED!” The criteria were very specific: he was looking for families with two sisters at least four years apart in age and currently between the ages of 18 and 36. He limited his search to families in which the birth parents separated or divorced when the younger sister was younger than 14 years. Ellis and his colleagues were able to recruit 101 pairs of sisters, some from families in which the parents had divorced and, using a different ad, some whose parents had not.

This time the researchers found that risky sexual behavior was not related to how long daughters lived with their fathers but to what the fathers did in the time they spent with their daughters. “Girls who grew up with a high-quality father—who spent more time as a high-investing father—showed the lowest level of risky sexual behavior,” Ellis said. “Their younger sisters, who had less time with him, tended to show the highest level of risky sexual behavior.”

And a bit later:

Ronald P. Rohner of the University of Connecticut has spent some years looking at the consequences for children and teenagers of being either accepted or rejected by their parents. He thinks that parental acceptance influences important aspects of personality. Children who are accepted by their parents are independent and emotionally stable, have strong self-esteem and hold a positive worldview. Those who feel they were rejected show the opposite—hostility, feelings of inadequacy, instability and a negative worldview.

Rohner analyzed data from 36 studies on parental acceptance and rejection and found that they supported his theory. Both maternal and paternal acceptance were associated with these personality characteristics: A father’s love and acceptance are, in this regard, at least as important as a mother’s love and acceptance. That is not necessarily good news for fathers—it increases the demands on them to get this right. “The great emphasis on mothers and mothering in America has led to an inappropriate tendency to blame mothers for children’s behavior problems and maladjustment when, in fact, fathers are often more implicated than mothers in the development of problems such as these,” Rohner says.

Empathy is another characteristic that we hope teenagers will develop, and fathers seem to have a surprisingly important role here, too. Richard Koestner, a psychologist at McGill University, looked back at 75 men and women who had been part of a study at Yale University in the 1950s, when they were children. When Koestner and his colleagues examined all the factors in the children’s lives that might have affected how empathetic they became as adults, one factor dwarfed all others—how much time their fathers spent with them. “We were amazed to find that how affectionate parents were with their children made no difference in empathy,” Koestner says. “And we were astounded at how strong the father’s influence was.”

Melanie Horn Mallers, a psychologist at California State University, Fullerton, also found that sons who have fond memories of their fathers were more able to handle the day-to-day stresses of adulthood. Around the same time, a team at the University of Toronto put adults in a functional MRI scanner to assess their reactions to their parents’ faces. Mothers’ faces elicited more activity in several parts of the brain, including some associated with face processing. The faces of fathers, in contrast, elicited activity in the caudate, a structure associated with feelings of love.

So how do we avoid damaging our children? Well, we choose to have sex with people who are capable of long-term stability and commitment. And how do we do that? We test them before we have sex with them.

My approach to dating and courting has always been an engineer’s approach. A project manager’s approach. I am used to working with teams to deliver bug-free software that will exist in an enterprise environment. There, the software will have to survive unexpected disasters, peak usage and other challenges. If we are serious about avoiding harm to children, we should drop emotional/spiritual approaches to dating and courtship and stick with interview questions and performing tasks (tests). Marriage should be like software engineering projects – at least we know how to deliver quality software on time and on budget. The lazy, emotional hedonistic approach doesn’t work. It doesn’t work in relationships. It doesn’t work in engineering.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , ,

Surprise! In this post, I actually agree that men should “man up” – in one respect

I hope I don’t get my Christian manosphere credentials revoked, and I’m going to try very hard to explain why I am linking to this post by Matt Walsh below, in a disclaimers section.

But first, this:

It went from courting, to dating, to hanging out. Sometimes even hanging out reeks of too much commitment, in which case ‘talking’ can be used. And if talking sounds too serious, maybe we’ll start hearing ‘vicinitizing.’ That’s a word I just made up, and it means that you and your female friend are often in the same vicinity, but it doesn’t get all intense by insinuating that you’re actually in that general location together on purpose.

When did men become so afraid to make a commitment, to take the lead, to say what they want, to make long term plans, to set goals, to pursue, to talk about the future?

We are devolving into primates, losing the ability to even discuss our own behavior using words and sentences. The average single American man is now relegated to grunts and shrugs and ‘whatevers’ and ‘you knows’ when pressed to have a conversation about his dating habits. Or his vicinity habits. Or his whatever habits, because whatever, you know?

‘Hanging out’ is how we describe what we do with our buddies. Is that what you want? Do you want that beautiful woman to be your buddy? Or would you ideally prefer it if you could distinguish between your relationship with her and your relationship with your friend Steve?

And this, I really love this:

Then, one day, I met Alissa. She was looking for a grown man, and I was sick of playing games. We were both exhausted. So do you know what we did very early in our relationship?

We defined our terms.

We made our goals clear.

We were open with each other.

We spoke about the future.

We used words like ‘marriage.’

We were clear and convicted and purpose driven. I had ambitions for our relationship. Ambitions. I, like, had an idea about what I was doing and why I was doing it. Can you believe it? I was in it for a reason. I wanted it to become something.

See, I’d been floating like aimless debris through an ocean of cloudy intentions and half-heartedness, until I grew up and realized that romance isn’t a game, and most women aren’t frivolous bimbos. They want men who know what they want and aren’t afraid to verbalize it. And if they don’t want that, then they aren’t worth your energy. Get out now. If she still wants to pretend she’s in tenth grade, let her live that fantasy with someone else.

With Alissa, things were pretty clear from the get-go. We had a relationship. A real, live relationship. A few months into it, I proposed. Some people wait longer, which is fine. We’re all on our own schedule. But I promise you, despite popular sentiments, it doesn’t take a decade and a half to figure things out.

And finally this – I could not agree more, (but see my disclaimer below):

No matter what anyone does, or says, or thinks; no matter what we tell ourselves; no matter what society insists, romantic relationships are always serious business. Call it what you want — hanging out, talking, dating — there’s a woman’s heart involved in it. That means you have a responsibility, alright? You have a duty as a human being, as an adult, as a man.

She’s making herself vulnerable to you. You need to honor that, protect it. And if you aren’t looking for anything but cheap sex and another trophy of sexual conquest to hang on the wall in your studio apartment, then you need to protect her from yourself, because you’ll be bringing nothing but disappointment and chaos into her life.

Listen, there’s a lot of joy and love you’re missing out on when you spend years tumbling like a ball of weeds from one opaque hang out session to another. I know this from experience.

If you’re hanging out with a woman and you feel like you might be into her,tell her. Call her on the phone. Take her out on a date. Say the words: “I’d like to take you out.” No ambiguity. Plan the date yourself. Women want you to be decisive. Lose the whole “so waddaya wanna do tonight?” schtick. Take charge. Pick her up at 7. Pay for the meal. Have a conversation with her. Go mini golfing or something. Go somewhere. Open the door for her. Put your phone away. Open up to her. Share your ideas, your dreams, your fears. Get to know her. Pursue her. Pursue her. Invest yourself in the process, as scary and unsure as it may seem. Take a risk, gentlemen. Go out on a limb for once. Be purposeful. Be desirable. Be a man.

You wouldn’t go into a job interview and tell the interviewer that you aren’t sure if you want the job, and you don’t want to even talk about the job because it freaks you out and gives you a tummy ache, would you? So don’t do that to the women you’re dating, or hanging out with, or talking to, or whatever.

In the old days, they called it courting. It was a lot like dating, but with more of a point and less confusion. Maybe we should get back to that strategy.

Just this week, I was shown an e-mail from a man who has been very serious about a woman who has just swept him off his feet. He really likes her and has been very clear about his feelings for her. His long term goal for his relationship with her is marriage, and she knows that. He has been encouraging her to grow her skills and to pursue her dreams. BUT this is what she wrote to him in the e-mail I saw “Do not talk about marriage, or love. This makes me uncomfortable.” This is after 3 months! THREE MONTHS!

I was talking about marriage with one girl I was interested in on the FIRST meeting. And in the second meeting, she brought up John Piper’s questions for couples considering marriage – it didn’t bother me one bit. I was happy to have something serious to talk about with her. Just to check this out, I asked two of my co-workers what they thought. The first moved in with his girlfriend after a month, and married her within a year – they’ve now been married 19 years. The second was picking out engagement rings after a month of meeting his wife, was engaged 9 months later, and he’s been married to her for 29 years.

I agree with Matt that IF men are interested in a woman, THEN they should state their goals and talk about the future with her. But if the woman is very spontaneous, emotional, fun-loving, etc. and only wants to talk about surfing, skydiving, etc., then a man can’t be blamed for not bringing up marriage in that case.

Disclaimer

I want to be clear that this admonition to man up does not take away from anything that I’ve said about marriage being very, very dangerous for men. The fact of the matter is that marriage does not mean what it used to mean before feminism. To just give one quick example, no-fault divorce and anti-male divorce courts make marriage a really risky decision for a man. 70% of divorces are initiated by women, and they get full custody 90% of the time – with the child support and alimony. So I think that as long as we are talking about women who are politically conservative, into apologetics, frugal, chaste and a graduate of a STEM degree program, then men should be clear and direct and make the woman feel desired and safe. Otherwise… just stay clear of them.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Is cohabitation a better way to prepare for marriage than courting?

Matt from Well Spent Journey sent me this assessment of cohabitation from the liberal New York Times.

Excerpt:

AT 32, one of my clients (I’ll call her Jennifer) had a lavish wine-country wedding. By then, Jennifer and her boyfriend had lived together for more than four years. The event was attended by the couple’s friends, families and two dogs.

When Jennifer started therapy with me less than a year later, she was looking for a divorce lawyer. “I spent more time planning my wedding than I spent happily married,” she sobbed. Most disheartening to Jennifer was that she’d tried to do everything right. “My parents got married young so, of course, they got divorced. We lived together! How did this happen?”

Cohabitation in the United States has increased by more than 1,500 percent in the past half century. In 1960, about 450,000 unmarried couples lived together. Now the number is more than 7.5 million. The majority of young adults in their 20s will live with a romantic partner at least once, and more than half of all marriages will be preceded by cohabitation. This shift has been attributed to the sexual revolution and the availability of birth control, and in our current economy, sharing the bills makes cohabiting appealing. But when you talk to people in their 20s, you also hear about something else: cohabitation as prophylaxis.

In a nationwide survey conducted in 2001 by the National Marriage Project, then at Rutgers and now at the University of Virginia, nearly half of 20-somethings agreed with the statement, “You would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together with you first, so that you could find out whether you really get along.” About two-thirds said they believed that moving in together before marriage was a good way to avoid divorce.

That’s a nice idea – wanting protection against divorce. But I think these hopeful attitudes that young people have about cohabitation and the utility / harmlessness of premarital sex, is so much whistling past the graveyard. The fact is that cohabitation does not improve marital stability. Young people believe it because they want to believe it. Let’s look at the evidence to see why.

Cohabitation is a bad idea because what it says is that sex is not to be confined to marriage, but it is instead for recreational purposes outside of marriage. If men and women cannot demonstrate that they are capable of self-control prior to marrying by functioning in a relationship based on commitment and not based on pleasure, then they are not qualified for marriage. Cohabitation is associated with higher risks of divorce because it works to undermine the need for quality communication during courting and the need for commitment that is based on discipline, instead of pleasure.

Research has shown that pre-marital chastity produces more stable and higher quality marriages. And that’s because chastity helps people to focus on conversations and obligations instead of the recreational sex which clouds the judgment and glosses over the seriousness of marriage. Premarital sex rushes the relationship to the point where it is harder to break it off because of the sunk costs of sex and the pain of the break-up. Courtship is the time to discuss the things that break up marriages, like finances and division of labor. It is also the time to demonstrate self-control and fidelity.

More:

Couples who cohabit before marriage (and especially before an engagement or an otherwise clear commitment) tend to be less satisfied with their marriages — and more likely to divorce — than couples who do not. These negative outcomes are called the cohabitation effect.

Researchers originally attributed the cohabitation effect to selection, or the idea that cohabitors were less conventional about marriage and thus more open to divorce. As cohabitation has become a norm, however, studies have shown that the effect is not entirely explained by individual characteristics like religion, education or politics. Research suggests that at least some of the risks may lie in cohabitation itself.

As Jennifer and I worked to answer her question, “How did this happen?” we talked about how she and her boyfriend went from dating to cohabiting. Her response was consistent with studies reporting that most couples say it “just happened.”

“We were sleeping over at each other’s places all the time,” she said. “We liked to be together, so it was cheaper and more convenient. It was a quick decision but if it didn’t work out there was a quick exit.”

She was talking about what researchers call “sliding, not deciding.” Moving from dating to sleeping over to sleeping over a lot to cohabitation can be a gradual slope, one not marked by rings or ceremonies or sometimes even a conversation. Couples bypass talking about why they want to live together and what it will mean.

The problem with young people today is that they want marriage as “a blissful state where I will get whatever I want without having to do anything, and where I am free from the consequences of my own selfishness”.  They don’t want marriage as commitment, moral obligations, serving others and self-sacrifice. By avoiding conversations about who will do what, and what needs doing, they can fool themselves by thinking that happy sex and happy drinking and happy dancing will naturally turn into happy marriage. But marriage isn’t about feeling happy, it’s about being a sinful person who now has to learn to love another sinful person and has to train and lead selfish, rebellious children so they are able to serve God and others.

If you asked me, I would tell you that courting is protection against a bad marriage. And the aim of courting is to interview the other person so that you can see whether they understand the demands of the marriage and whether they can perform their duties to their spouse and children. In particular, men should investigate whether the woman has prepared (or is willing to prepare now) to perform her roles as wife and mother, and women should investigate whether the man has prepared to perform his roles as protector, provider and moral/spiritual leader (or is willing to prepare now). Courting is not designed to be fun, although it can be fun. It is not meant to make people feel happy, it is mean to prepare them for marriage. And this is because you cannot translate fun and happy into marriage, because marriage is about well-defined roles, self-sacrifice and commitment. Marriage is about following through for the other person, whether you get what you want or not.

And that’s why I encourage men to very gently and subtly guide the relationship in a way that will allow both the woman and himself to practice their expected marital duties, see how they feel about their duties and get better at being able to perform them.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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