Attitudes about the Transition from Cohabitation to Marriage: A Qualitative Perspective

Meredith J. Porter, Bowling Green State University
Pamela J. Smock, University of Michigan

Recently, the U.S. has witnessed changing union formation patterns, with dramatic changes centering on increases in cohabitation. While cohabitation is sometimes perceived as representing a threat to the institution of marriage, it has not been decoupled from marriage. However, there appears to be some decline in transitions from cohabitation to marriage. This research examines beliefs about determinants of marriage from the perspective of cohabitors. We move beyond prior research by using a qualitative approach allowing for respondents' subjective appraisals of what is necessary to move from a cohabiting relationship to marriage. We look beyond often-studied economic factors to a broader scope of factors. We use data collected as part of the Cohabitation and Marriage in America project, specifically, in-depth interviews of 115 young adults who are currently cohabiting or have recent cohabitation experience. We attempt to better understand processes and mechanisms underlying the decision to marry among young adult cohabitors.

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Presented in Session 114: Values, Attitudes, and the Family