Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 17, 2005
Marriage bests cohabitation union
Women and children benefit
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
"Several studies indicate a correlation between religiosity and marital happiness, as well as stability."
- Anne-Marie Ambert
Ambert reports that cohabitation rates "have shot up" in the past 10 years, while marriage rates have dropped.
"In Canada, the marriage rate peaked at 10.6 per 1,000 population in 1941 to decline to 7.1 in 1990 and then to 5.0 in 2001," she writes.
In 2001, 16 per cent of Canadian couples were cohabiting, compared to 8.2 per cent of American couples. Among adults aged 20 to 29, the number of people neither marrying or cohabiting has also increased.
"A longer period of singlehood is also a result of the fact sexual relationships outside of marriage are now more accessible and socially acceptable in western societies," she says.
Ambert found that cohabitation before marriage increases the risk of divorce later on, everywhere except Quebec, where the divorce rate is higher than in the rest of Canada.
She attributes this higher risk to lower rates of sexual fidelity and higher rates of premarital violence. She also points out previously cohabiting couples have higher rates of marital violence even if there was no violence prior to tying the knot.
Fifty per cent of cohabitations dissolve within five years, she says, compared with the 30 per cent divorce rate for marriages after five years.
"Couples who cohabit are less religious than those who marry without prior cohabitation," she writes. "Several studies indicate a correlation between religiosity and marital happiness, as well as stability."
Only 35 per cent who cohabit are likely to marry, and younger cohabitors "now begin living together rather quickly after the onset of dating," she says. "For them, cohabitation is replacing dating."
Ambert says the cohabitation is attractive for young people because it brings sexual availability, a form of savings through pooling of resources and, for some, an escape from their families.
It also doesn't require the expense of a wedding, and leaves couples freer "to invent their relationships outside the mould of traditional expectations and gender roles."
Cohabiting males and females are more likely to be unfaithful than husbands or wives. The rates for male and female cohabitors are 25 and 22 per cent respectively, while for husbands and wives, the rates are 11 and 9 per cent.
Ambert points out that the more committed partner in a cohabitation - usually the woman - is at a disadvantage, as the uncommitted partner remains "in a permanent state of availability."
Though cohabiting couples report more frequent sex, Ambert says the studies she looked at showed married couples are "by far" happier, are healthier and live longer.
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