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Keywords:

  • divorce;
  • premarital cohabitation;
  • premarital sex

Using nationally representative data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, I estimate the association between intimate premarital relationships (premarital sex and premarital cohabitation) and subsequent marital dissolution. I extend previous research by considering relationship histories pertaining to both premarital sex and premarital cohabitation. I find that premarital sex or premarital cohabitation that is limited to a woman's husband is not associated with an elevated risk of marital disruption. However, women who have more than one intimate premarital relationship have an increased risk of marital dissolution. These results suggest that neither premarital sex nor premarital cohabitation by itself indicate either preexisting characteristics or subsequent relationship environments that weaken marriages. Indeed, the findings are consistent with the notion that premarital sex and cohabitation limited to one's future spouse has become part of the normal courtship process for marriage.