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Sliding Versus Deciding: Inertia and the Premarital Cohabitation Effect

Scott M. Stanley, Galena Kline Rhoades and Howard J. Markman
Family Relations
Vol. 55, No. 4 (Oct., 2006), pp. 499-509
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40005344
Page Count: 11
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Sliding Versus Deciding: Inertia and the Premarital Cohabitation Effect
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Abstract

Premarital cohabitation has consistently been found to be associated with increased risk for divorce and marital distress in the United States. Two explanations for this "cohabitation effect" are discussed: selection and experience. We present an empirically based view of how the experience of cohabitation may increase risk for rela-tionship distress or divorce for some people beyond what is accounted for by selection. Specifically, using a commit-ment framework, we suggest that some couples who otherwise would not have married end up married because of the inertia of cohabitation. We discuss practice implications for relationship transitions that are characterized more by sliding than deciding, especially where a transition such as cohabitation increases inertia to remain in a relation-ship regardless of quality or fit.

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