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Keywords:

  • cohabitation;
  • marital communication;
  • observed behavior

The goal of the present study was to examine the relationship between premarital cohabitation experience and marital communication in an effort to understand the robust finding known as the cohabitation effect, whereby couples who cohabit before marriage have greater marital instability than couples who do not cohabit. Observed marital problem solving and social support behavior were examined as a function of premarital cohabitation experience in a sample of 92 couples in the first 2 years of their first marriages. Spouses who cohabited before marriage demonstrated more negative and less positive problem solving and support behaviors compared to spouses who did not cohabit. Sociodemographic, intrapersonal, and interpersonal functioning variables did not account for the association between cohabitation experience and marital communication.