Research Paper: Cohabitation Non-Traditional Form of Family

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Cohabitation

Non-traditional form of family has become more and more dominant in the society. Conventionally, it was a custom for young persons in the society to get married before having children. However, people in the contemporary world form their own families in different ways. Among the noticeable non-traditional form of family is the one headed by a female. Particularly, families led by unmarried females have been subject of social controversy regarding welfare dependency. Another noticeable trend is the decline in legal marriages and a rise in non-legal unions otherwise referred to as cohabitation.

Cohabitation refers to the condition or state of living together as wife and husband without being legally married. Shepard, an author, defines cohabitation as the condition of people living together in a marriage- like arrangement without the legal responsibilities and obligations of formal marriage (327). However, it is unclear whether cohabitation has risen because more people are delaying marriage or because it has become a substitute for marriage. Cohabitation has surfaced as an alternative to traditional monogamy, and it is a crucial form of first union.

Prevalence of Cohabitation

Cohabitation gained widespread acceptance over the past 50 years and it is widely considered as one of the most significant shifts in family life in the past forty years (Lamanna 189). Cohabitation dramatically changed the marital life course through providing prelude to or a replacement for marriage (Lamanna 189). Not only in the United States, but also in other industrialized nations has cohabitation dramatically increased. In the United States, the trend of cohabitation spread extensively in the 1960s, sharply took off in the 1970s, and ever since, cohabitation has continued to rise. In the present world, over five million United States' heterosexual couples live together unmarried. However, this number may be an undercount given that cohabiters do not necessarily move into separate housing (Lamanna 189). Instead, some cohabiters live together in parental home, or live with roommates and as a result would not be included in a census count.

Over 9% of United States' females aged between 15 and 45 years are presently cohabiting with their male partners, and fifty percent have been involved in cohabitation at some point in the life (Lamanna 189). According to Lamanna, an author, cohabitation is expected to rise further as prospective generations accept this form of family (189). Moreover, new generations are brought up in cohabiting families and they may be socialized to take cohabiting as a norm (Lamanna 189). Despite the fact that approximately seventy-five percent of cohabitants are below forty-five years old, the proportion of middle-aged cohabiters has risen over the past two decades. Middle-aged cohabiters are in relationships of longer duration as they are more likely to face divorce. Only a five percent of cohabitants are above the age of sixty-five years.

Nielsen, a scholar, asserts that over the mid years of the twentieth century, the developing prevalence of cohabitation has been drastic, contributing to over 4.5 million United States' households championed by heterosexual cohabiting couples (8). Over the last decade, the rates of cohabitation has risen to forty-five percent of females in their reproductive age in 1995 in comparison with thirty three percent of females in the same age bracket in 1987. Most people in modern times are opting for cohabitation and as a result, cohabitation has become more prevalent. It is estimated that fifty percent of couples getting married for the first time started their unions through cohabitation. This estimate does not involve the developing number of persons cohabiting after a divorce given that a quarter of all stepfamilies are created through cohabitation (Nielsen 9).The reasons for increasing cohabitation and decrease in marriage include:

The shifting role of females, whose developing economic independence has offered them more liberty to select their relationships.

The increase in rate of divorce, and the message divorce is sending to potential marriage partners

Shifting social attitudes and lowered social stigma. Young persons are more likely to live together as a couple compared to older people, and this reflect that young people take cohabitation as appropriate and a norm

Increasing secularization

Increased marriage expectations

Considerable availability of, and more effective, contraception

Social Acceptance and Attitudes towards Cohabitation

Studies indicate that the number of young people opting for cohabitation instead of marriage is constantly rising. Before the sexual revolution that started in 1960s, it was not acceptable for couples to live together outside nuptials (Browne 83). However, young people's attitudes about marriage and relationships have greatly shifted over the past 40 years. The changes in mind-set have instigated an increase in age of people when they live together, first marry and this trend has become the most prevalent form of relationship among people in their 20s (Browne 83).

Browne, an author, asserts that the decline of marriage and the growth of people living together prior or outside marriage are the two crucial social shifts at the turn of the 21 century (83). Marriage rates are declining, and there are more and more couples cohabiting rather than searching for official acknowledgement of their relationships through marriage (83). For instance, in 2002, there were two hundred and fifty thousand marriages in England, 19% fewer than it was in 1991 (Browne 83). Over a quarter of non-married females and males were cohabiting in 2003 and 2004. A number of these people entail persons who were separated but not divorced. By early 2000s, majority of people in their first marriages had lived with their partners beforehand. In this regard, cohabitation is a norm as opposed to an exception.

Well over 1.5 million cohabiting couples in Britain have refused to get married; more than one in ten of all couples. Cohabiting, unmarried couples are bringing up over 11% of dependent children (Browne 83). However, scores of cohabiting relationships eventually end up in nuptials; almost sixty percent of first time cohabitations turn into nuptials (Brown 83).

According to Bornstein, an author, social acceptance of cohabitation has increased. Research indicates that young adults view cohabitation as an overture or an alternative to marriage (450). In the United States, transition to parenthood takes place among cohabiting couples, who account for forty to fifty percent of non-marital births. Some critics are concerned that the lowering rates of marriage among the young people, coupled with the developing popularity of cohabitation and increased divorce rates, mean that people are abandoning the marriage institution (Bornstein 450).

However, results from several surveys indicate that majority of American view marriage as a personal objective and a significant element of a good life (Bornstein 450). In fact, high opinion for marriage may underlie the decision of some young persons to act carefully waiting to get married when they have relatively secured financial and occupation basis or until they have attempted a relationship through cohabitation. Regardless of whether their intuitions are right or wrong, young people who defer nuptials for such reasons, do so with the hope that their eventual unions will become permanent (Bornstein 450).

Neilsen confirms that besides the increased prevalence of cohabitation, cohabitation has received social acceptance (9). The augmented acceptance has been powerful among young adults. Research indicate that most young adults approve of non-marital cohabitation (Neilsen 9).These young adults believe that it is often a good concept for a couple to live together prior to getting married to test whether their marriage would last, and to prevent an eventual divorce. This implies that cohabitation is widely acceptable and encouraged in the society. According to Farrer, an author, the share of cohabitation in most countries, is age-dependent (24). This implies that cohabitation is most popular among young persons in their twenties, and that the proportion of cohabiting union reduces with age (Farrer24). Cohabitation may hold divergent meanings to different age groups. While young people, cohabiting, may constitute a test period before marriage as opposed to an alternative to marriage, in older age groups, cohabitation is justifiable through external facets such as, people awaiting divorce, disapproval of parents' remarriage by their children (Farrer 24).

Farrer also ascertains that acceptance of cohabitation is determined through childbearing outside marriage, and through rises in the number of cohabiting couples (24). Farrer cites the Swedish population that has a long-standing tradition of non-marital cohabitation as a form of family (Farrer 24). On the other hand, Nielsen asserts that augmented acceptance of cohabitation is linked to a general acceptance of a broad range of nontraditional lifestyles and family-like alternatives (10). Approval of cohabitation is expected to grow given the increased acceptance among young adults, and as a result, there is a developing trend towards more freedom and tolerance concerning family choices (Nielsen 10).

Types and Reasons of Cohabitation

People cohabit because of varying reasons and they hold different types of cohabitation arrangements. Suussman, an author, cites four types of common blueprints of cohabitation (Suussman 313). They include:

The Linus Blanket

This type of cohabitation is named after a character in the comic strip, "Peanuts" who takes a security blanket with him. The Linus blanket form of cohabitation takes place when one partner… [END OF PREVIEW]

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