human Development Canadian edition spencer a.Rathus Shauna longmuir
Society has changed dramatically in the last decades and has enabled some of the core principles to suffer modifications. These include nowadays discussions about same sex marriages, allowance or banning of physical expression of religious beliefs in schools, debates on the actual purity of ministers and people of the Church, among other things. Another issue under debate and acceptance is the "cohabitation" as an alternative to marriage. There are views that consider the choice of cohabitation to be more suitable for today's type of society, whereas other view it as a dilution of family values where the family is the cornerstone of the society.
In the United States, there is no unitary approach on the term cohabitation together with its implications. In this sense in some states the term means "regularly residing with an adult of the same or opposite sex, if the parties hold themselves out as a couple, and regardless of whether the relationship confers a financial benefit on the party receiving alimony. Proof of sexual relations is admissible but not required to prove cohabitation"
. At the same time though, in other states, cohabitation represents a criminal offense and is punishable according to adultery laws
. However, this legal aspect is of recent date; yet, the practice of cohabitation dates back to decades ago and reflects a change in the mentality of the individuals.
The term is now accustomed to the vocabulary of the legal practice, yet the term, although not used so often, reflected even the living-together of couples before eventually getting married. More precisely, studies have shown that an almost half of women in recent decades had lived with their partner before getting married. Better said, "Estimates from the 2006 -- 2010 NSFG show that nearly one-half (48%) of women aged 15 -- 44 had ever cohabited before marriage. Similarly, most young couples live together first before entering marriage. Cohabitations are typically short-lived: one-half of women's first premarital cohabitations that began in 1997 -- 2001 became marriages and another one-third dissolved within 5 years."
The cohabitation practice that dissolved in 5 years from the statistics above point out that there is a difference between marriage and cohabitation but, at the same time, it can stress the importance of the divorce percentage. Either way, it must be pointed out that the choice of cohabitation for more than a few years implies a choice in a longer celibately life. This is important as it has become rather obvious that "one of the most important stories of the past several centuries of Western history is the transformation of the institution of marriage -- in particular the declining centrality of marriage in defining and guiding human behavior and relationships. Marriage has become less central in organizing economic production, consumption and the transfer of property across generations. It has become less influential in delineating the relationships between men and women, the transition to adulthood and the identity for men and women,"
This aspect points out several important issues. One assumption can be that it is the decline of the role of marriage that has led to opting for cohabitation. The second aspect is that the psychological transformation of the individual has led to the choice of cohabitation rather than sharing.
The first element under discussion is the demise of the role of marriage in the society. There have been numerous studies being done on the reasons for which marriages have more and more often a tendency to fall apart and are no longer as stable as in previous centuries. However, it must be underlined that, unlike previous centuries, the emancipation of women has allowed them to choose the time of marriage, the person to which they want to commit as well as the right to choose celibacy. Moreover, the fact that religion no longer plays a crucial part in the lives of more and more people around the world, especially the Western world, the issue of marriage and commitment in front of God no longer represents an incentive for making a relationship official.
The other aspect relates to the choice of cohabitation as a means of making a relationship official. According to studies, the issue of cohabitation appears in the development stage of "early adulthood" which "generally covers the two decades from ages 20 to 40, although some theorists begin at 17 and 18, others extend the period to age 44 or 45"
This aspect is consistent with the age segments on which studies have been conducted to view the trends in cohabitation. Among the "tasks" that a young adult must take into account in this age range is also "learning to live contentedly with one's partner"
. This is to say that this period relates to the discovery of one self, leaving the family environment and embarking in a new journey -- friends, creating new family whether it is a traditional or non-traditional.
At this stage in life, there are a lot of decisions both men and women need to take and they relate particularly to the "tasks" they need to fill in the 20 years period. Among the first tasks for this age is finding a job and a means of self-sustainability
. This is not a mere assumption but rather it relates to the actual issue of marriage vs. cohabitation. More precisely, it has been concluded that men with a proper job and means of providing for a potential family have more changes of getting married, that is engaging in the traditional style of life, than those that do not have the physical possibility to be the bread-earning force in a family
. At the same time, there is another trend identified as being important for the changes of marriage and that is education. However, these two elements put strains on men who, as per studies conducted, are choosing to marry at later ages than women. Taken education and a job together, "these two trends suggest that cohabitation does not place the same requirement on men, that they be able to assume the primary breadwinner role, as does marriage"
. Therefore it can be said that cohabitation can also be a pragmatic and structural choice made.
The choice of cohabitation is increasingly important from the point-of-view of same sex marriages debate. It is a rather well-known fact the belief that same sex marriages, according to the Church for instance, destroys the basis of the society in its traditional manner. This is one of the reasons for which same sex marriages are completely banned in Catholic countries throughout Europe and Latin America. The United States has in this sense a mixed approach, leaving the decision at the state level rather than considering a uniform decision. However, for states in which same sex marriages are not permitted, the cohabitation arrangement may be a solution. From a practical point-of-view, "the rising number of cohabiting couples has rendered the issue of financial remedies on their separation increasingly important. Civil Partnership Act 2004 reacted to the needs of some of these couples by providing a registration scheme for same-sex partners for whom marriage is not possible (same sex couples who register a civil partnership acquire almost exactly the same rights and obligations as couples who marry)"
There are other views on cohabitation. While some argue that cohabitation is an intermediary step towards marriage, as mentioned above, others argue "cohabitation, as marriage, is an alternative to not being alone"
. Even so, the argument for cohabitation may be that "cohabitation will strengthen eventual marriage by helping them iron out the kinks in their relationship. Yet, some studies suggest that the likelihood of divorce within 10 years of marriage is nearly twice as great among married couples who cohabited before marriage"