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Cohabitation versus Marriage: A Comparison of Relationship Quality
Susan L. Brown and Alan Booth
Journal of Marriage and Family
Vol. 58, No. 3 (Aug., 1996), pp. 668-678
Published by: National Council on Family Relations
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/353727
Page Count: 11
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Using data from the 1987-1988 National Survey of Families and Households, we evaluate the extent to which cohabitation is similar to marriage. The quality of recently formed cohabiting and marital relationships among Black and White Americans ages 19 to 48 is investigated in an effort to advance our understanding of the meaning of cohabitation relative to marriage. Controlling for relationship duration and demographic characteristics of the respondent, we find that cohabitors in general report poorer relationship quality than their married counterparts. However, cohabitors' marriage plans largely explain the difference in relationship quality of cohabitors and marrieds. The majority of cohabitors report plans to marry their partner, and these cohabitors are involved in unions that are not significantly different from marriages. In fact, cohabitors report more frequent interaction with their partners than do marrieds. The relationship quality of marrieds and cohabitors with plans to marry is affected in the same way by the presence of potential sources of stress such as biological children, children from past unions, and prior union experience.
Journal of Marriage and Family © 1996 National Council on Family Relations