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Premarital Cohabitation and Marital Dissolution: An Examination of Recent Marriages


  • St. Mary's University, Department of Sociology, Charles Francis Hall 202, St. Mary's University, San Antonio, TX 78228.

  • This article was edited by Jay Teachman

Department of Sociology, 223 Williams Hall, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403 (


An ongoing question remains for family researchers: Why does a positive association between cohabitation and marital dissolution exist when one of the primary reasons to cohabit is to test relationship compatibility? Drawing on recently collected data from the 2006–2008 National Survey of Family Growth, the authors examined whether premarital cohabitation experiences were associated with marital instability among a recent contemporary (married since 1996) marriage cohort of men (N = 1,483) and women (N = 2,003). They found that a dichotomous indicator of premarital cohabitation was in fact not associated with marital instability among women and men. Furthermore, among cohabitors, marital commitment prior to cohabitation (engagement or definite plans for marriage) was tied to lower hazards of marital instability among women, but not men. This research contributes to our understanding of cohabitation, marital instability, and broader family change.