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Journal of Personality Assessment
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Assessment of Personality and Demographic Aspects of Cohabitation and Marital Success
Michael D. Newcomb; P. M. Bentler Online Publication Date: 01 February 1980 To cite this Article: Newcomb, Michael D. and Bentler, P. M. (1980) 'Assessment of Personality and Demographic Aspects of Cohabitation and Marital Success', Journal of Personality Assessment, 44:1, 11 - 24 To link to this article: DOI: 10.1207/s15327752jpa4401_2 URL:

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Journal of Personality Assessment, 1980, 44, 1

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Assessment of Personality and Demographic Aspects of Cohabitation and Marital Success
MICHAEL D. NEWCOMB and P. M. BENTLER University of California, Los Angeles
Abstract: The outcomes of 68 marriages of four-year duration were compard on the basis of whether the partners had or had not cohabited premaritally. Background characteristics and personality data were assessed o n those couples when there were newly married, and they were followed-up four years later to determine their current marital status, level of satisfaction, difficulty with various problem areas and the number of children born to them. No reliable differences o n marital satisfaction or divarce rates between premarital cohabitors and noncohabitors were found. Cohabitors who divorced did so while reporting less marital distress than noncohabitors who divorced. Premarital cohabitors had significantly fewer children than noncohabitors. Degree of difficulty experienced on various problem areas differed between the groups. Certain personality and background variables predicted marital success differently for the two groups. Using the same selected set of six predictor variables, multiple regression equations were generated for cohabitors and noncohabitors. The cohabitors equation (R2 = .56) predicted marital success significantly more effectively than the noncohabitors equation (R2 = .28). When comparing the tri-weight vectors for these two equations, none of the predictor variables had the same influence in both groups. Theoretical implications of the findings were discussed.

Cohabitation has received increasing attention from researchers during the past ten years. The vast majority of studies have attempted to describe the differences between individuals and couples who cohabit from those who choose not to cohabit(e.g., Macklin, 1972; Newcomb & Bentler, 1980; Yllo, 1978).Other researchers have tried to examine the role cohabitation plays in the courtship and dating process (e.g., Lyness, 1978; Ridley, Peterman & Avery, 1978). Macklin (1974) sees cohabitation as another stage in thecourtship sequence, occurring between steady dating and marriage: A phase of 'going very steady', as she puts it. There is some support forthis contention. Lewis, Spanici, Storm Atkinson, and Lehecka (1977) found that commitment levels were similar between cohabiting couples and engaged noncohabiting couples. It has also been found that almost one-half of a sample of married couples had cohabited with their current partner for some period of time before marrying them (Newcomb & Bentler, 1980). Although not currently the behavior of the majority (Clayton & Voss, 1977), cohabitation is being practiced by a large and increasing number of people (Ho-

bart, 1979). Since many marriages are apparently preceded by cohabitation, it seems reasonable to wonder what effect this cohabital experience has on the quality and character of the subsequent marriage. There has been some speculation (e.g., Danziger, 1976; Peterman, 1975; Ridley et al., 1978), but only few scientific investigationslookingat theeffect of cohabitation on marriage (Budd, 1976; Olday, 1977; Clatworthy & Sheid, Note 1; Lyness, Note 2). Cohabitation before marriage and 'trial' marriage cannot be assumed to be synonymous in intent although they may be functionally equivalent. Contrary to the situation ten years ago, the majority of today's cohabitors do not enter their cohabital relationship as a planned prelude to, or trial, marriage (Hobart, 1979). Although it is clear that many marriages are preceded by cohabitation, most did not begincohabitingasa testing ground for a possible marriage. Many effects of cohabitation on marriage have been proposed. Urie Bronfenbrenner fears that cohabitation may undermine the family structure and allows the circumvention of the requisite commitment and obligation necessary to build a relationship that is viable, meaningful and fulfilling (Schwartz, 1977).


Two Aspects of Cohabitation and Marital Success
before marriage had no apparent effect on whether a couple stays married or eventually divorces (Bentler & Newcomb, 1978). This says nothing about any specific quality differences or effects of differing lengths ofcohabitation. Ridley et al. (1978) stressed that it is the quality and character of the relationship formed while cohabiting, as well as the maturity of the partners, that make the experience a positive building block for marriage. Unlike speculations, which are abundant, there is a paucity of research findings that are addressed to what differences actually exist between marriages that are preceded by cohabitation and those that are not. A few, generally inconclusive studies have been done contrasting these groups. Lyness (Note 2) looked at variables related to concepts from open marriage and Olday (1977) examined satisfaction, conflict, egalitarianism and emotionalclosenessand both found few significant differences between marriages that were and were not preceded by cohabitation. Budd (1976) also found few differences between her sample of similar groups in regard to . problems experienced, self-disclosure, and commitment. She did find that couples who did not cohabit premaritally reported more difficulty with loss of love than couples who had cohabited before marrying. Finally, Clatworthy and Sheid (Note 1) reported that although couples who had cohabited premaritally considered it a positive influence on their marriage, there was little evidence that these couples had better or less traditional marriages or that they had chosen more compatible partners than couples who had not cohabited premaritally. They did find that those who had cohabited showed more tenacity in arguments, more independence from their partner, and more often disagreed on finances, household tasks, and use of leisure time than those who had not cohabited premaritally. Regarding the marriage itself, those who hadcohabited saw their marriage as a less vital Dart of their lives, had sought marriage cciunseling more often and had temporarily bro-

Harper (1975) claims that once a cohabiting couple marries, many of the attractions of cohabitation are goneand therelationship may suffer as a consequence. He asserts that these attractions include rebellion against parental and societal mores, ease of termination and theshirking of responsibility regarding parenthood. He feels cohabitation too often accentuates temporariness in meaningful relationships instead of fostering an enduring union that can be relied upon. There is conflicting evidence in regard to if and what type of change a relationship undergoes in a transition from premarital cohabitation to marriage. Usinga retrospective design, Berger (Note 3) found that the self-reported quality of a relationship remained largely unchanged in the shift from cohabitation to marriage. Kenough (1975), on the other hand, found that cohabitors who married reported pressures to return to traditional roles and an accompanying loss of identity. Returning to the broader issue of cohabitation's effect upon marriage, others contend that cohabitation can serve an important and possibly essential role in the individual's maturation and the success potential of a subsequent marriage. Peterman (1975) and Peterman, Ridley, & Anderson (1974) claim that cohabitation offers an individual a uniqueexperience in intimate relations that is not provided through traditional educational institutions and courtship practices in this society. Cohabitation can allow a person to develop a degree of 'heterosexual competence' that is necessary for the endurance and fulfillment of any meaningful intimate relationship. So, to the extent this can be accomplished during premarital cohabitation, a subsequent marriage will benefit. Danziger (1976) feels that the most important function cohabitation can serve is as a screening device to assure that two people are compatible before they marry. These varied points of view predict different success potentials for marriages preceded, and not preceded, by cohabitation. Empirically, it has been found that, on a gross level, choosingtocohabit

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ken up more often than those couples tosubject motivation,and that theworkwho had not lived together before mar- ing sample is representative under the rying. All of these studies were descrip- constraint of realistic field conditions. tions of cross-sectional samples of intact married couples. They did not lookatdi- Sample Description The sample of nonstudents ranged in vorced marriages that had or had not been preceded by cohabitation. In or- age from the late teens up to the sixties. der to do this most efficiently a longitu- They were predominantly Caucasian dinal design must be incorporated, and their mean educational and occupational levels were 'some college'and lowwhich this present study has done. The purpose of this study is to evalu- middle class. Thirty-eight couples did ate the longitudinal effect of cohabita- not cohabit and 39 couples did cohabit tion upon marriage. T o d o this marriages before marrying. For those who did cothat were preceded by cohabitation will habit, the average duration was eight be compared with marriages that were months and ranged from less than one not preceded by cohabitation in terms of month to a littlelessthan three years. For various marital outcome indices - e.g., purposes of this study, all couples who marital status, satisfaction, problem lived together prior to marriage, regardareas - that were assessed four years in- less of the duration, will be considered to each marriage. Also an attempt will be cohabitors. made to determine whether the presence or absence of premarital cohabitation independent Variables All independent variables were ashas any differential effect on how demographic and personality variables, as- sessed during the initial data collection sessed at the beginning of a marriage, and thus represent variables that were eventually influence the outcome of that measured at the beginning of all themarriages. Two instruments were used to marriage four years later. assess background variables for all indiMethod viduals and couples and personality trait Sample Selection variables on each individual. Individual background information The sample of couples was obtained by a recruitment letter sent to a random se- was obtained in regard toage,education, lection of marriage license applicants at occupation, religion, previous divorce, the Los Angeles County Recorder's of- previous children and parents' divorce. fice. One-hundred sixty-two couples On the couple, information wasobtained completed the initial data collection regarding how long they had knowneach phase and 68 of these couples returned other and how long they had lived tofollow-up questionnaires four years lat- gether before marriage,ifinfact they had. The Bentler Psychological Inventory er. Fifty-three marriages had remained intact and 15 had divorced during this (BPI) was used to assess personality period. From public records it wasdeter- traits. The BPI consists of 680 pairs of mined that nine of the couples that bipolar statements and the respondent is couldn't be recontacted at followup, had asked to choose the onestatement ineach divorced also. In total, the marital status pair that most accurately reflects him/of 77 of the original sample of 162couples herself. Although 28 trait scales are obwas ascertained: 53 were still married tained, a selection of only 14 ofthese were and 24 had divorced. Although attri- examined that seem to have some subtion in sample size between initial con- stantive meaning in regard to cohabitatact and follow-up was fairly large, re- tion. Traits were selected on the basis of sponses to 89% of the deliverable letters previous empirical findings (e.g., religicame in, indicating that a maximum of osity, liberalism, and masculinity), as I 1$ of the couples self-selected out oft he well as theoretically important concepts study. Because of this, it was felt that the of relationships (e.g., stability, extraversample reduction was not systematicdue sion, and invulnerability). It is increas-

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Two Aspecrs of Cohabitation and Marital Success
used in our analyses. Where appropriate marital status, the compositeadjustment score, the composite marital success score, or each problem on the problem rating list will be used, area by area, as dependent variables. In addition to these relationship quality indicators, at follow-up how many children had been born to each couple during their four years of marriage.

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ingly important, in cohabitation research, to examine concepts and variables that can be integrated into a theory for understanding the causes and consequences of this phenomenon. It is for these reasons that only 14 ofthe28 traits were chosen to be analyzed in detail. These 14 traitsare: ambition, art interest, attractiveness, clothes-consciousness, extraversion, intelligence, invulnerability, law abidance, leadership, liberalism, masculinity, religiosity, self-acceptance, and stability. Trait descriptions and reliability coefficients for the BPI can be found in Bentler and Newcomb (1978, p. 1055).

Dependent Variables All dependent variables were assessed at the follow-up period four years into each marriage. There were three general issues to be addressed in the follow-up questionnaire: (a) the current marital status of each couple: whether they had remained married or had separated or divorced, (b) the quality of all the marriages, which was determined by including the Locke and Wallace (1959) Marital Adjustment Scale scored by their criteria, and (c) the types of problems that caused the most difficulty in each marriage. To do this, a list of 19 potential problem areas were included and each couple was asked to rate, on a 3-point scale, the degree of difficulty each had created in their marriage. A total problem score was calculated by summing the ratings on all problem areas for each couple. Since the Marital Adjustment score and lack of problems score were highly correlated (fl66]= .78,p<.001), thestandardized scores for each section were averaged yielding a composite adjustment score, using the method described by Bentler and Newcomb (1978). In order to incorporate the maximum amount of information available into a summary statistic, marital outcome was included - married vs. divorce - into the composite adjustment score. This was done by averaging the three normalized scores and arriving at a composite marital success score for each couple. Several dependent variables will be

Resulrs Divorce Rates Twenty-six percent (I0 couples) of the noncohabitors and 36% (14 couples) of the cohabitors had divorced within the first four years of their marriage. This difference in proportions was not significant (x2,,,= .82, ns). No significant differences were obtained regarding divorce rates between cohabitors and noncohabitors nor among cohabitors themselves. This may be due to the small sample size, which must be taken into account in all of the analyses, or no actual differences between the groups. Even though none of thedifferences in proportions are reliable, it is interesting to note divorce rates for various lengths of cohabitation before marriage. Among cohabitors, the rates of divorce were greatest if thecouple hadlived togetherforless than 3 months (50%) or longer than l l months (42%) before marrying. Thelowest divorce rates were obtained for couples living together between 3 and 10 months (21%) prior to marriage. When this latter group - those who cohabited from 3 to 10 months - are compared with the rest ofthecohabitors onproportion of divorces, the results, though again not significant, do indicate a possible trend (xz,,, = 1.99, p < .2). Apparently, there may be an optimal length oftime to cohabit before marrying that increases the success potential of that subsequent marriage. Keeping in mind the lack of reliability in these percentages, the 10% higher divorce rate for couples who had cohabited, compared to those who did not cohabit, does not show the whole picture. Couples who had cohabited for 3 to 10

months prior to marriage had a divorce rate of 2 1%, which is lower than the 26% divorce rate for the noncohabitors. Whereas, overall, noncohabitors as compared to cohabitors had a slightly higher success rate, in terms of fewer divorces, a more detailed analysis suggests that some cohabitors actually have a higher success rate than noncohabitors. Marital Adjustment We next looked at whether the degree of marital adjustment differed between cohabitors and noncohabitors, using the composite adjustment score - a combination of the Locke-Wallace scale and the lack of problems score- to represent marital adjustment. A two-way analysis of variance showed that there was virtually no overall difference between cohabitors and noncohabitors(F=.07, ns). This lack of a reliable difference on marital adjustment between cohabitors and noncohabitors mirrors the results regarding divorce rates. The main effect of outcome -married vs. divorced -revealed a large, albeit expected, significant difference ( F = 73.0 1, p < .001). Of greater interest,however, is the significant interaction effect of cohabitation with outcome ( F = 6.66, p < .05). Cohabitors who remained married had a lower level of marital adjustment than noncohabitors who remained married. Conversely, cohabitors who divorced had a higher level of marital adjustment than divorced noncohabitors. The difference between the twostill-married groups was not significant(r,,,,= 37, ns), but the difference between thedivorced groups was found to be significant (r,,,, = -2.56, p .c .05, two-tailed). It seems apparent, then, that cohabitors divorced with a significantly higher level of marital adjustment, or fewer problems in their marriage, than couples who did not cohabit before marrying and divorced. Birth of Children Twenty-five of the 68 couples (37%) had at least onechild born to themduring their first four years of marriage. Fiftythree percent of those couples who did not cohabit had children, whileonly 21% of those who cohabited had children. This difference in proportions was significant (x*,,,= 6 5 , c.01). It seemsap7. ~ parent that those who are inclined or attracted to cohabitationarealso less interested in producing children, once married. Among the cohabitors there was a distinct difference between those who had lived together a short period and those who had lived together a longer while before marrying. Thirty-five percent of those couples who had cohabited for 10 months or less had children, while less than 6% of those who had cohabited for I 1 months or longer had children. This difference was also found to be significant (x*(,, 4.50, p < .05). = Problem Ratings In order to determine more specifically the quality of these marriages we analyzed our problem rating checklist, area by area. Differences in problem ratings were looked at in three ways: (a) it was first determined whether there were any mean differences between cohabitors and noncohabitors in regard to each problem area, (b) then the interaction of cohabitation and marital outcome by each problem area was looked at, and (c) within group differences among cohabitors wasexamined, regarding how length of cohabitation affected the various problem areas. The total problem score did not significantly differentiate those whocohabited from those who did not (t = .84, ns). Mean differences were compared on each problem area between those who did and did not cohabit, by using twotailed t tests. These t values are shown in column I of Table 1. Fourareasgavesignificantly greater difficulty for the cohabitors compared to the noncohabitors. These four problems were adultery, drunkenness, drug abuse, and independence. Only one area, bickering, was significantly more of a problem forthe noncohabitors than the cohabitors. Column 2 of Table 1 shows the Fvalues for the interaction of cohabitation and marital outcome. Six of these interactions were significant. Four of these six significant interactions: nonsupport,

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Two Aspects of Cohabitation and Marital Success
Table 1 Problem Areas

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- -


M Difference Between
Problem Noncohab~tat~on and Cohabitat~on

df = 66

Interaction of Outcome and Cohab~tat~on df = 1.64

Correlation with Length of Cohab~tatlon d = 32 f

Attention to another Mutual affection Adultery Sex relations Veneral disease Desire for child Finances Nonsupport Drunkenness Drug abuse Gambling Sent to jail Friends Selfishness In-laws Ill health Bickering Independence Career conflicts Other

-1.78 -.95 -2.32' -1.07 0.0 -.80 -.63 0.0 -2.49* -1.97* .82 -1.44 73 -.77 1.02 .59 2.02* -3.25** 1.60 .17

1.5 .8 4.2* .2

.23 -.03 .25 -.I9 .02 -.07 -.I0 -.I4 .22 .I9 .05 -. 16 .05 -.04 -.30 .23 .12 -.28 -.08

.2 1.4 6.9** 2.3 7.5** 3.4 .8 9.1** 3.5 .2 1 7.4** 3.3 6.7* .7

Note: 0 = no oroblem: I = moderate problem: 2 = severe problem.

friends, bickering, and career conflicts, were caused by a small difference between the still-married groups and a large difference between the two divorced groups, with thedivorcedcohabitors reporting substantially lower dtgrees of difficulty than the divorced noncohabitors. The remaining two significant interactions, on adultery and drug abuse, had a similar form as the others except that the divorced cohabitors reported greaterdifficulty, rather than less, on these problems, compared to the divorced noncohabitors. As in the other interactions, there was essentially no difference between the ratings given by cohabitors and noncohabitors that had remained married. Among cohabitors, correlations were used to determine the effect length of cohabitation had on ratings of the various problem areas. These correlations are given in column 3 of Table 1. While none of these correlations were found to be sig-

nificant, they are reported heresince they address a very criticalquestion regarding cohabitation: specifically, does length of cohabitation have a beneficial or detrimental effect on problems commonly faced in marriage? Looking at correlations greater than. IS, it can be seen that the longer one cohabits the less difficulty will be faced during marriage regarding sexual relations, friends, ill health, and career conflicts. On the other hand, the Ion er one cohabits the greater was the ! reported in regard toattention dif ~culty being paid to another, adultery, drug abuse, gambling, and bickering. Simple Predictive Correlations The longitudinal predictability of marital quality and outcome was examined for each background and personality trait variable by sex and by cohabital experience. The composite marital success score was used as the indicator of marital quality and outcome since it incorporates the Locke-Wallace scale, the

Table 2 Simple Predictive Correlations
Males Noncohabitors d = 34 f Cohabitors df = 34
: Between r

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N = 68

Noncohabitors d = 34 f

Cohabitors d = 34 f

z Between r N = 68

Background Age Education Occupation Pre-divorce Pre-children Parent Divorced Personality Traits Ambition Art Interest Attractiveness Clothes-con. Extraversion Intelligence Invulnerability Law Abidance Leadership Liberalism Masculinity Religiosity Self-acceptance Stability

-.07 -.25 .07 -.33* -.22 -.34* -.37* .I0 .04 -.38* -.56*** .06 -.28 -.03 -.39* .27 -.07 -.09 -. 14 .15






problem score and marital status. This was correlated with all independent variables for male and female cohabitors and noncohabitors. These four sets of correlations are given in columns l,2,4, and 5 of Table 2. Two-tailed significance tests were consistently'used. Using the Fisher r to Z conversion, the Zdifferences were obtained between correlations on male noncohabitors and cohabitors, and female noncohabitors and cohabitors. These are given in columns 3 and 6, respectively, of Table 2. These Z differences essentially represent measures of interaction between cohabital experience and the composite marital success score in reference to each independent variable. In other words, a significant Z value indicates a reliable difference in predictability on that variable for noncohabitors compared to cohabitors. In regard to background variables for

the males (top portion of Table 2) there were two significant correlations for the noncohabitors and four for the cohabitors. The presence of a previous divorce and parental divorce, for males, both negatively influenced the success of a marriage that was not preceded by cohabitation. For those males who did cohabit premaritally, the older they were, the higher the educational level they had achieved and the more often they had a previous divorce and previous children, predicted a positive outcome for their marriage. There were four significant differences in predictability for males, on background variables, on age, education, previous divorce, and previous children. In each case, the effect of the variable had an opposite influence for each group. All were negatively related to marital success for the noncohabitors and positively related for the cohabitors.


Two Aspects of Cohabitation and Marital Success
or else both groups had substantial correlations but in opposite directions as with clothes-consciousness and liberalism. For the females, there were three significant correlations on personality traits for those who did not cohabit and two significant correlations for those who did cohabit before marrying. For those who did cohabit, marital success was significantly predicted by less ambition, less art interest and more stability for the females. Women who did cohabit had more successful marriages if they were more clothes-conscious and more law abidant. There were threesignificant differences between trait correlations, for females, on ambition, clothes-consciousness, and law abidance. Again, as in all othersignificant Zdifferences, there were opposite signs on the correlations between the groups. although, in several of these, one of the correlations was so low that the significant Z difference was caused by a particular variable having a large influence in one group and virtually none in the other.

For previous divorce, both simple correlations were significant but in opposite directions. One background variable for the noncohabited females significantly predicted marital success, while there were four such correlations for thefemales whodid cohabit before marrying. Presence of a previous divorce had a negative influence on the success oft he marriage for females without cohabital experience. For females who did cohabit, being older, having a previous divorce, having previous children and not having a parental divorce were indicative of marital success. There were three significant differences between correlations, for females who did and did not cohabit before marrying, on age, previous divorce, and parental divorce. Again, as with the males, there was a sign difference in each case, with both correlations on previous divorce being significant. The influence of age and previous divorce had identical effects for males and females. Turning next to the predictive influence of personality traits (the bottom portion of Table 2) there were four significant correlations for males who did not cohabit and two significant correlations for males who did cohabit before marrying. Those marriages that were not preceded by cohabitation were positively benefited by the males having less ambition, being less clothes-conscious, more introverted and having fewer leadership qualities. For males who did cohabit, their subsequent marriage was moresuccessful if they were more clothes-conscious and less liberal. There were four significant differences and one marginal difference between predictive correlations for the two groups of males. Correlations predicting marital success differed significantly on clothes-consciousness, extraversion, leadership, and liberalism, and marginally onambition. Each of these substantialdifferencescan beaccounted for in one of two ways. Either one group had a very high correlation and the other group had virtually no relationship to the criterion variable with that particular predictor, as in thecaseof ambition, extraversion and leadership,

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Multiple Regression Prediction Equations Our final set of analyses examines the longitudinal predictability of marital success for cohabitors and noncohabitors, separately. The composite marital success score was used as the dependent variable in these regression equations. Rather than simply using a stepwise procedure to select predictor variables from all background and trait variables, which has the effect of over-capitalizing on chance in such a small sample, a subset of variables using a strict decision rule was chosen. By examining the simple predictive correlations in Table 2, those variables were selected that had the same direction of influence for both sexes within cohabitors or within noncohabitors,and also had at least one significant correlation. For example, ambition was chosen since it had a negative influence for both male and female noncohabitors, a positive influence for both male and female cohabitors, and had at least one-twoin fact - significant correlations. In this

M. D. NEWCOMB and P. BENTLER Table 3 Marital Outcome Predictive Equations

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Beta Sien Beta



Education Previous Divorce Ambition Clothes-consciousness Law Abidance

.438** .260* ,108 -.060 .221* ,168

1 I 1 0 1 1

.I69 -.240*

0 -1

-.203 -.I33

-I -I -1



Optimal Tri-Weights Differential Weights Ordinary Regression Error



1 5 6 61

,5290 72.99*** ,2447 ,0331 ,0058 .80 .0930 12.83*** .2778
,0072 ,7112

1 5 6 61

.2447 20.99** .0066 .57 .0463 3.97** .0117

manner nine variables were selected: age, education, previous divorce, ambition, clothes-consciousness, law abidance, leadership, liberalism, and stability. During all of the following analyses three of these nine variables: leadership, liberalism, and stability, accounted for only a miniscule portion of the variance in either group and thus were eliminated from the analyses. Rather than constructing separate equations for males and females, all subjects were combined by group, cohabitors and noncohabitors, regardless of sex. In this way we had 68 individuals who had cohabited and 68 individuals who had not cohabited premaritally. Table 3 gives the Beta-weights and ANOVA breakdowns for the multiple regression equations generated for cohabitors and noncohabitors. A novel regression approach developed by Bentler and Woodward (1978), was used to select an optimal vector of +I, 0, and -I weights. Rather than the finetuned Beta-weights, only three possible elements are allowed as regression weights: 0 - no influence for that variable, I -a positive influence for that variable and -1 - a negative influence for that variable. The optimal triweight vector is given under the columns headed "sign." The given weights maximize the multiple correlation of a composite formed by eliminating or sign-

weighting standardized variables. As is obvious in the partitioning of variance in both ANOVA tables, the tri-weight vectors account for essentially all of the predictive variance of the ordinary regression. The differential weighting represents only incidental noise. Although both equations providea significant level of predictability, it is possible that one does so more effectively than the other. Usingaformulathatcompares regression lines (slopes and intercepts) between two groups that use the same set of predictor variables, a large significant difference was found (F,,,,,,, = 10.72, p G .001). The Beta-weight solution forthecohabitorsaccounted for about 56% of the variance, while the Beta-weight solution for the noncohabitors accounted for only about 28% of the variance. It is clear from this that marital outcome can be more effectively predicted for those who had cohabited before marriage, compared to those who did not cohabit before marrying. When these six variables were used to predict marital success for the entire sample of 136 individuals, regardless of cohabital experience, only 12% of thevariance was accounted for. Attempting to predict marital success while ignoring the presence or absence of premarital cohabitation, apparently washes out the power of these variables and severely limits the


Two Aspects of Cohabitation and Marital Success
months or longer than 10 months had very high divorce rates, while those who had cohabited from three to 10 months prior to marriage had relatively low divorce rates. Apparently three to 10 months is an optimal length to cohabit premaritally, in order to minimize the possibility of divorce. It must be kept in mind that these differences in proportions only reflect trends that are not sta-, tistically reliable and thus must beevaluated cautiously and definitely have fu-. ture cross-validation. The entire issue of why a couple will decide to marry after cohabiting is largely unexamined in the literatureand needs more attention in future research. One: speculation is that cohabitors will marry when they decide to have children. This was not borne out in our data. In fact, significantly more couples who did not cohabit bore children during their first four years of marriage, compared to those who did cohabit. This is consistent with the findings of Bower and Christopherson (1977) which indicated that cohabitors planned to have significantly fewer children in their lifetime, than individuals who did not cohabit. It is apparent that most cohabitors do not decide to marry in order to provide a basis for having children. In regard to marital adjustment, the significant interaction obtained between cohabital experience and marital outcome is very interesting. We found that for couples who remained married after four years, there was no significant difference in marital adjustment between cohabitors and noncohabitors. This was not the case for couples who divorced during that period of time. Couples who cohabited premaritally divorced while experiencing less difficulty, compared to couples who divorced and had not lived together before marriage. Cole and Vincent (Note 4) found that living together unmarried couples reported significantly fewer barriers to terminating their re:lationship than married couples. Apparently, the act of marrying does not augment the number of perceived barriers to separation for previous cohabitors to any great degree. The number and

amount of prediction possible. In order to understand how thepredictive influence of these variables was neutralized when thegroups werecombined, we compared the Beta-weights between the cohabitor and noncohabitor equations. It can be seen that four of the six variables have opposite directions of influence. For the cohabitors, education, previous divorce, clothes-consciousness, and law abidance each have a positiveeffect on marital success, whilefor the noncohabitors each has a negative effect. An even more striking contrast can be seen when comparing the tri-weight vectors. None of the variables has a similar influence in both groups. Age and law abidance have a positive effect for cohabitors and virtually no predictive influence for noncohabitors. Education, ambition, and clothes-consciousness all have a positive influence for the cohabitors and a negative influence for the noncohabitors. Ambition, on the other hand, has virtually no predictive power for the cohabitors, but has a negative influence for the noncohabitors. It seems remarkably clear from these analyses that the prediction of marital success is strikingly different depending on whether or not the couples cohabited premaritally.

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Discussion Our results indicate that there are no significant differences in divorce rates or degree of marital satisfaction between couples who did and did not cohabit before marriage. Although there was a trend for those who had cohabited to have higher divorce rates and lowermarital satisfaction than those who did not cohabit, these two differencesdid notapproach being reliable. Clatworthy and Sheid (Note 1) found that couples who had cohabited before marriage more often sought marriage counseling and more often had temporary separations than couples who had not cohabited premaritally. These findings are not inconsistent with the trends observed here. Our more detailed analyses did reveal some interesting possibilities. Among cohabitors, it was found that those who had lived together for less than three



strength of perceived barriers are appar- ture of 'marital bliss.' ently more a function of the individuals Various problems showed differential and relationship formed, that is some- 'deadliness'to the relationship - causes how reflected in the choice to cohabit, for divorce - between cohabitors and rather than the fact of being married. In noncohabitors. There was virtually no other words, couples with cohabital ex- difference on problem ratings between perience, regardless of whether they cohabitors and noncohabitors who rechoose to marry, see fewer barriers to mained married. On the other hand, coending their relationship, compared to habited couples who divorced did so married couples who did not cohabit. while reporting significantly lessdifficulCouples who have cohabited may have ty with nonsupport, friends, bickering less motivation toward correcting prob- and career conflicts, than couples who lems and might more readily prefer di- did not cohabit and divorced. Adultery vorce than couples who had not co- and drug abuse caused more difficulty habited, when both are reporting similar for cohabitors that divorced compared levels of distress. On the other hand, co- to noncohabitors that divorced. These results can be interpreted in at habitors may divorce moreamicably and with less animosity than noncohabitors. least two ways. The significant interacNewcomb and Bentler (1980) presented tion on adultery and drug abuse, where data suggesting that women who co- divorced cohabitorsreported greaterdifhabited and then married may have more ficulty with these areas than divorced psychological tools for survival in this noncohabitors, might localize the mean society than noncohabiting women who difference effect found for these probmarry. This may partially account for the lems. In other words, the significant current findings and possibly indicate mean differences found between cohabithat couples who cohabit before mar- tors and noncohabitors on adultery and riage may be less devastated and allow drug abuse might be wholly accounted less interpersonal deterioration to occur for by the large simple main effect bewhen divorcing, compared to those who tween the two divorced groups. The sigdid not cohabit and eventually divorce. nificant interaction on bickering can be In regard to problem areas, it was understood in an analgous way. found that cohabitors experienced sigIf reportingdifficulty with theseareas. nificantly more difficulty in their mar- by divorced couples, can be assumed to riage with adultery, alcohol, drugs, and be possible causes for their divorce, then independence, than couples who had not cohabitors are particularly vulnerable to cohabited. Cohabitors reported less dif- divorce, relative to noncohabitors, for ficulty with bickering than noncohabi- reasons ofadulteryanddrugabuse. Nontors. Cohabitors have been shown to be cohabitors, relative to cohabitors, are less law abidant and more liberal, as well apparently more prone to divorce while as reporting a wider diversity of sexual experiencing difficulty with nonsupport, experience than noncohabitors (Henze friends, career conflicts, and bickering. & Hudson, 1974; Newcomb & Bentler, This-does not mean that these are the 1980). Apparently, this makes marriage only reasons why couples divorce. but preceded by cohabitation more prone to rather they point out the differential vulproblems often associated with other nerabilities that lead to divorce for copatterns of deviant life-styles -e.g., use habitors who married relative to noncoof drugs and alcohol, more permissive habitors who married. These different sexual relationships, and an abhorrence vulnerabilities to problem areas may be of dependency - than marriages not due to one group either having a greater preceded by cohabitation. Married co- relative quantity of difficulty or else havhabitors, on the other hand,areseeming- ing a greater sensitivity to a particular ly less susceptible than noncohabitors, to problem, than the other group. Our data the day-to-day bickering and nagging cannot differentiate these two possioften caricatured in the traditional pic- bilities.

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Two Aspects of Cohabitation and Marital Success
seems fair to assume that youngerpeople have a relatively lower level of maturity regarding their needs and interpersonal functioning than older people. Ifcohabitation can be considered to be at least functionally equivalent to a trial marriage, one of the most importantfeatures it has to provide is knowledge and information pertaining to the interpersonal compatibility of the couple. Older cohabitors apparently have the maturity and interpersonal competence to utilize the information obtained fromcohabitation in order to assure the selection of a compatible marriage partner, that might lead to a more successful marriage. Younger cohabitors are apparently much less successful in utilizing the information from cohabitation effectively. The lack of a relationship between age and marital success for noncohabitors points out the power of the information cohabitation can provide. Noncohabitors did not have this additional information about the intimate, day-to-day interactions with their potential mate. Lacking this critical information, their age or level of maturity could not use or misuse data that was not available. The presence ofa previousdivorce had different effects upon marital success for cohabitors and noncohabitors. For both male and female cohabitors, being previously divorced was beneficial to the outcome of their current marriage. Perhaps the personal and interpersonal knowledge gained from a previous unsuccessful marriage - regarding personal needs, wants, and vulnerabilities - allowed the cohabital experience to be a real testing ground for a possible marriage. In other words, the information provided through cohabiting was more effectively utilized, in the sense of producing a more successful marriage, if the individuals had been previously divorced. Cohabitors who did not have a previous marriage and divorce had a relatively worse marriage. They a p rently were not able to benefit asmuch rorn the cohabital experience when deciding to marry. This parallels our results on age and may be due to older people more often having a previous divorce, com-

To determine whether length of cohabitation had any effect on problems experienced four years into their marriage, we correlated duration of cohabitation with each problem rating. Although none of these correlations were significant, tharends observed are informative. The longer a couple cohabited premaritally the less difficulty they reported in theirmarriagewithsex,friends, health, and careerconflicts,and the more difficulty with attention to another, adultery, drug abuse, and bickering. The exacerbated problems seem to relate to a non-mutual satisfaction between a mutual sharing, while theameliorated problems are ones of individual satisfaction. This may be due to the independent and possibly self-centered attitudes of cohabitors. Yet, thesecorrelations wereneither significant nor large, and thus we must conclude that the length of cohabitation may increase or correct specific problems to a small extent, but not toany dramatic degree. In other words, cohabitation cannot be damned nor blessed for preventing the problems in marriage. The power to predict marital success was evaluated by correlating each variable with our dependent measure of marital success in four groups. Rather than attempting to interpret each significant predictive correlation, which may have the result of grasping at straws where there is no adequate theoretical haystack, we will examine a few results that seem to have particular interest and importance. Previous research has consistently shown that age is a significant predictor of marital success (e.g., Luckey, 1966; U.S. Bureau ofthecensus, 1973). We obtained a similar result but only for individuals who cohabited premaritally. Age at marriage was virtually unrelated to marital success for people who had not lived together before marrying. If premarital cohabitors marry young there is less chance for them to havea successful marriage than if they had cohabited and married at an older age. There are two critical factors to understand wheninterpreting this phenomenon: The implications of age and cohabital experience. It


pared to younger people. The exact opposite effect for previous divorce was found for noncohabitors. Forthisgroup, having a former marriage was detrimental to their current marriage. This is consistent with previous research that indicated that once you have divorced you are more likely to have other divorces in your future. The research literature on cohabitation has indicated several variables that differentiate cohabitors from noncohabitors. These variables' effects on the quality of a subsequent marriage have not been previously examined. Cohabitors have been found to be less clothesconscious, less law abidant, and more liberal than noncohabitants (Newcomb & Bentler, 1980). On the other hand, our simple predictive correlations indicate that cohabitors have a more successful marriage when they are relatively more clothes-conscious, more law abidant, and less liberal. The opposite is true for noncohabitors. It seemsclearthatat least in terms of these three variables, what distinguishes cohabitors from noncohabitors are the very qualities that predict an unsuccessful marriage. Apparently more traditionalism, at least for these variables, for cohabitors and less traditionalism for noncohabitors, allow for a better adapted marriage. This should not be over-generalized since other indicators of traditionalism that discriminated cohabitors from noncohabitors (e.g., androgyny and religious commitment) have no predictive influence on marital outcome for either group. Using six selected variables, multiple regression equations predicting marital success were generated for cohabitors and noncohabitors. Both significantly predicted marital success. When comparing these two equations, two features are particularly noteworthy. First, the equation generated for cohabitors predicted marital success significantly more effectively than the equation for noncohabitors. And second, when the triweight vectors are compared for the two equations not a single variable has the same influence in bothgroups. Although the presence or absence of cohabitation has no direct influence on theoveralloutcome of a marriage, there are apparently very different and sometimes opposite forces operating to promote marital success for cohabitors compared to noncohabitors. It seems clear from the data that the impact of premarital cohabitation on a subsequent marriage is not a simple nor direct relationship, but rather is multifaceted. There are two, not mutuallyexclusive ways, oflookingat thedifferences obtained. One way is to assume that the actual experience of cohabitation has somehow produced the variations we have noticed in the marital outcome indices. The other way is to assume that cohabitation attracts a certain type of person, who would havea particular type of marriage regardless of whether he or she had cohabited or not. Most likely both of these viewpoints are partially correct and our discussions have speculated with both possibilities. In spite of these interpretation difficulties, we can conclude that cohabitation is apparently not the cause nor cure-all for the currently high divorce rates in this country. Like most things in this life it is a mixed blessing, helping some aspects and hindering others in the marital relationship.
Reference Notes I . Clatworthy,N. M.,&Shield, L. A comparisonof married couples: Premarital cohabitants with non-premarital cohabitants. Unpublished manuscript, Ohio State University, 1977. Lyness, J. F. Open marriageamong former cohabitants: We havemet theenemy: Is it us?Unpublished manuscript, Pennsylvania State University, 1976. Berger, M. E. Trialmarriagefollowup. Unpublished manuscript, 1974. Cole, C. M., & Vincent, J. P. Cognitiveandbehavioral patrerns in cohabitive and marital d19ads.Unpublished manuscript, University of Texas Medical Branch, 1977.

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References Bentler. P. M.. & Newcomb. M. D. Lonnitudinal study of marital success and failure. ~&rnalof Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1978,465, 1053-1070. Bentler. P. M., & Woodward, J. A . Regression on linear composites: statistical theory andapplication. Multivariate Behavioral Research Monograph. 1979. No. 79-1


Two Aspects of Cohabitation and Marital Success
Macklin, E. D. Heterosexual cohabition among unmarried college students. The Famill.Coordinator, 1972,21,463-472. Macklin. E. D. Students who live together: Trial o~ marriage or going very steady. P . ~ j - c h o l To-~ dal. November. 1974.53-59. Newcomb. M. D.. & Bentler. P. M. Acomparison of couples who did and did not cohabit before 1980. marrying. Alternative L.~fes!~.les, 3, I, in press. Olday, D. E. Sotnr cwwequencesjor heterose.rua1 cohabitation for marriage. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Washington State University. 1977. Peterman, D. J . Does living together before marriage make for a better marriage? Medical Aspects of Human Se.rualin*.1975, 9. 39-41. Peterman, D. J.. Ridley, C. A..& Anderson. S. M . A comparison of cohabiting and noncohabiting college students. Journal of Marriaxe and the Familr. 1974.36, 344-354. Ridley, C. A,. Peterman, D. J., & Avery, A. W. Cohabitation: Does it make for a better marriage? The Famill Coordinator. 1978. 27.2, 129-137. August Schwartz. T. Living together. Neu:~week, 1. 1977,46-50. U.S. Bureau of thecensus, 1970 Censusofpopulation. Age ar,first marriage. (Final Rep. PC(2)4D). Washington. D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1973. Yllo, K. A. Nonmarital cohabitation: Beyond the 1978. I , I , collegecampus. Alternative Lifest1.1es. 37-54.

Berger, M. E. Trial marriage: Harnessing the trend constructively. The Family Coordinator, 1971, 20, 38-43. Bower, D. W., & Christopherson, V. A. University student cohabitation: A regional comparison of selected attitudes and behavior. Journalof Marriage and the Family, 1977,39,447-453. Budd, L. S. Problems, disclosure andcommitmenr of cohabiting andmarriedcouples. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1976. Clayton, R. R., &Voss, H. L. Shackingup: Cohabitation in the 1970s. Journalof Marriageandthe Familv. 1977,39,277-289. Danziger, C. Unmarried heterosexual cohabitation. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Rutgers University, 1976. Harper, D. M. Does living together before marriage make for a better marriage? Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, 1975,9,34-39. Personaland family Henze, L. F., & Hudson, J.W. characteristics of noncohabitingand cohabiting Journal of Marriage and the college students. Fami1.v. 1974,36. 722-726. Hobart, C. W. Changes in courtshipand cohabitation in Canada, 1968-1977. In M. Cook & G. Wilson(Eds.), Loveandatrraction. Oxford, England: Pergamon Press, 1979. Kenough, D. Without knotting the tie. The Arizona Republic. July 27, 1975. 8-15. Lewis, R. A.. Spanier. G. B., Storm Atkinson. V. L.. & Lehecka, C. F. Commitment in married and unmarried cohabitation. Sociological Focus. 1977.10. 367-374. Locke, H. J., & Wallace, K. M. Short marital adjustment and prediction tests: Their reliability and validity. Marriageand Familr Living. 1959, 21, 251-25s. Luckey, E. B. Number of years married as related to personality perceptions and marital satisfaction. Journalof Marriage and the fa mil^^. 1966. 28. 44-48. Lyness, J. F. Happily ever after? Following-up living-together couples. Alternative Lifestj.les, 1978, 1.1, 55-70.

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Michael D. Newcomb Department of Psychology University of California 405 Hilgard Avenue Los Angeles. CA 90024 Received: January 19, 1979 Revised: April 23. 1979

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