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Marriage and Cohabitation

In an era when half of marriages end in divorce, cohabitation has become more commonplace and those who do get married are doing so at an older age. So why do people marry when they do? And why do some couples choose to cohabit? A team of expert family sociologists examines these timely questions in Marriage and Cohabitation, the result of their research over the last decade on the issue of union formation.

Situating their argument in the context of the Western world’s 500-year history of marriage, the authors reveal what factors encourage marriage and cohabitation in a contemporary society where the end of adolescence is no longer signaled by entry into the marital home. While some people still choose to marry young, others elect to cohabit with varying degrees of commitment or intentions of eventual marriage. The authors’ controversial findings suggest that family history, religious affiliation, values, projected education, lifetime earnings, and career aspirations all tip the scales in favor of either cohabitation or marriage. This book lends new insight into young adult relationship patterns and will be of interest to sociologists, historians, and demographers alike.

456 pages | 16 line drawings, 29 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2007

Population and Development Series

Economics and Business: Economics--Development, Growth, Planning

Sociology: Demography and Human Ecology, Sociology--Marriage and Family


"What is noteworthy is the importance of intergenerational factors in people’s decisions on cohabitation and marriage. This book is an important scholarly contribution to understanding marriage and family in the US, with many interesting insights and interpretations concerning the growing phenomenon of premarital cohabitation. . . . Highly recommended."


"A brave attempt at providing a review of the history of the development of marriage and cohabitation in prior centuries and of utilising the life histories of a generation of parents and children who live out their lives across much of the twentieth century to benchmark, illustrate and facilitate our understanding of the meaning of marriage and cohabitation."

Kathleen Kiernan | European Journal of Population

"The book will be of interest to researchers in family-related fields. The literature review is extensive, the presentations of statistical modelling results are easy to understand, and the findings regarding possible intergenerational influences on union formation pathways are insightful."

Lixia Qu | Journal of Population Research

Table of Contents


I. Historical and Conceptual Issues

Chapter 1. Introduction

Chapter 2. Historical Perspectives on Marriage

Chapter 3. Comparing Marriage, Cohabitation, and Being Single

Chapter 4. Entering Marital and Cohabiting Unions

II. Parental Factors during Childhood and Adolescence

Chapter 5. Influence of Parental Youth Factors before Birth of Study Child

Chapter 6. Influence of Parental Factors during Childhood and Adolescence of the Children

III. Parent and Child Factors during the Children’s Young Adulthood

Chapter 7. The Courtship Process and Union Formation

Chapter 8. Religious Affiliation and Commitment

Chapter 9. The Influence of Attitudes, Values, and Beliefs

Chapter 10. Educational Influences

Chapter 11. Work, Earnings Potential, and Career Aspiration

IV. Integration and Summary of Effects

Chapter 12. Conclusions

Appendix A: Technical Explanation of Estimation of Total, Direct, and Indirect Effects

Appendix B: Conceptualizing and Estimating Union Formation Rates

Appendix C: Description of Measures Used in Chapters through 11

Appendix D: Constructing Measures of Earnings Potential for Use in Chapter 11





Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards

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