For a long time, social scientists held a common belief that living together before marriage was a strong predictor of divorce. However, new research from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro casts doubt on that idea. Past studies compared divorce rates based on the age at which the spouses married, and found a significant increase in divorce rates among couples who cohabitated prior to getting married. This study’s author believed that this was the wrong way to go about measuring things. Instead, she opted to compare couples based on the age that they began living together, regardless of when they got married.
What the Study Found
The UNCG study found that if the researchers compared couples by their age of cohabitation, their divorce risks were equal regardless of whether they were living together before marriage. This is because many couples who move in together begin to “act married,” regardless of whether there has been an official ceremony. The study also did confirm another common belief that couples that pair up earlier have a higher likelihood of divorce. In fact, divorce rates drop by as much as 25 percent for people who cohabitate in their mid-twenties as compared to those who begin living together at 18.
The study’s author believes that it is this correlation between age and divorce that is responsible for other studies’ finding that premarital cohabitation makes divorces more likely. That is because people who live together before marriage are also on average two years younger than people who move in only once they have said their vows. This means that they would be more likely to lack the emotional maturity and responsibility necessary for a successful marriage. The old method of measuring the risk of divorce caused by premarital cohabitation failed to capture that difference, meaning that the risk from younger marriages could get mixed with the risk from premarital cohabitation.
The study also suggests that it is possible that the riskiness of premarital cohabitation is actually shifting. The reason for this is that premarital cohabitation has increased 900 percent in the past 50 years, which demonstrates a stronger societal acceptance of it. This means that it places less of a stress on the relationship, and is also less likely to be the result of other outside pressures like an unplanned pregnancy or strained finances. In fact, this social acceptability has led some other researchers to conclude that marriages formed after the mid-1990s that involved premarital cohabitation never had the same risk of divorce as similar marriages from an earlier time. That research even showed that, for some people, living together prior to the marriage could actually reduce the risk of divorce.
If you believe that divorce is the right option for you, contact a DuPage County family law attorney today. Our experienced team can help explain the process to you and make sure your rights are fairly represented in court.