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Catherine McManus

MW 1pm
Consequences and Correlations of Cohabitation
Over time, and especially modern day, the prevalence and normalcy of
cohabitation has greatly increased. It is often thought that this spike has
come from the changing of young peoples attitudes and understanding of
the consequences of casual and premarital sex. Today, three out of four
college students have been involved in a friends with benefits relationship.
Only five percent of Americans say they waited until before ; with the
average male loosing his virginity at 17, and women at 18. (Institute, 2003)
Because of this, waiting until a long term commitment to have sex seems
like an unattainable goal, and most people do not even try. However, there
can be serious repercussions to a casual attitude about premarital sex and
Choosing to have casual sexual partners, can have negative effects on
a post marriage relationship. In a study by the National Marriage Project,
1000 unmarried people from ages 18 to 30 were surveyed. Over the course
of five years, 418 of those participants got married. They found that those
that had more sexual partners before marriage, reported less satisfaction in
marriage than those that had only one or zero sexual partners before
marriage. Twenty-three percent of participants who only had sex with their
spouse before marriage reported happier marriages, based on four items on
Dynamic scale: relationship happiness, thoughts about separation, frequency
of confiding in each other, and a general item about how well marriage life is

going. One of the contributing factors to these statistics is refereed to most

psychologists as the cohabitation effect. This occurs in couples that choose
to live together, and have sexual relations, before marriage. (Barter, 2014)
According to a study by Demaris and Rao, a couple that lives together before
they are married have a higher rate of wife infidelity, less positive interaction
between spouses, and usually forces commitment on one side of the
relationship. A couple that chooses to live together before marriage, feels
that marriage is the next natural approach, and one partner can feel
obligated to wed the other, solely, because they are living together, not
because they want to spend their lives with that person in particular. This is
called by some, relationship inertia, meaning the tendency of a relationship
to keep moving in a certain direction unless something causes it to move and
go off track. Living together, and copulating, before, marriage gives the
relationship a trial marriage effect. (Demaris & Rao)Given this reasoning,
one would think that post-marriage, the relationship would be more long
lasting and of better quality; however, the more time spent in a cohabiting
relationship is less time meeting other potential partners that could be more
compatible for that person. Half of marriages result from cohabitation, and
half of marriages end in divorce. Why do more sexual partners and live in
partners show a negative effect on later marriage quality? Studies show that
more experience may increase ones awareness of alternative partners,
essentially meaning that people who have a greater number of sexual
partners are more dissatisfied easier. (Gordon)

Not only can premarital sex have negative effects on future marriage
quality, but, studies show, it can also effect psychological development.
According to the Sexuality and Information Center of the U.S, there is 14
percent increase in depression in young girls who had lost their virginity.
(Meier, 2007)This is due to the fact that casual sex can lead to a low sense of
worth. When young girls, who are still developing a sense of themselves and
have fragile self-esteems, engage in sex acts, there is usually an expectation
of commitment post sex. When the other partner does not reciprocate their
feelings or want for commitment, they feel used. Many girls use sex as a way
to fulfill a need for attention and what may seem like love. I have seen this
first hand, as it is especially prevalent and permeant throughout the
American college culture. Many of my friends search for fulfillment, through
hookups, that never culminate in a functional, mutually loving relationship.
This mindset and psychological effects is more evident in females, because
of evolutionary benefit of male copulation. The greater sexual partners the
male has, the more likely he is to pass on those genes. For females, however,
one night stands could result in a pregnancy, where she would be left with no
paternal investments, protection, or support. Also sex acts during a premartial relationship, make the breakup and subsequent relationships more
difficult. If a couple chooses to abstain from sex, the relationship is easier to
overcome, post- breakup; which makes the next relationship not be held
back by past relationships feelings. A study by KA Etheier researched the
relationship between variables such as psychological problems, sexual

behaviors (high risk sex, multiple sex partners), and self-esteem in young
girls. They found that adolescents that showed greater emotional distress
were more likely to have a past with a greater number of sexual partners.
Self-esteem was the biggest factor in how much high risk sex (unknown
partner, unprotected, or with multiple partners a once) an adolescent
engaged in. The physical implications involving high risk sex, and premarital
sex, can be a component in the negative physiological factors. When
partners are worried about pregnancy or sexual transmitted diseases,
anxiety is increased, and overall wellbeing declines. (Ethier, 2006)
The commonplace of premarital sex, along with psychological and post
marital, also effects American culture as a whole. The more casual sex
becomes, the more it looses its value. This leads to marriage being seen as
less sacred and more practical. A study by Princeton University supports the
idea that children raised in a traditional two parent family tend to be more
successful, and lead more normal lives based on quality of life and happiness
on a scale of one to ten. (McLanahan, 2012) As rates of premarital sex
increase, more children are born without a stable home life with a father and
mother wed. In 1965, when the Great Society welfare legislation was
enacted, 24 percent of black children were born to unwed mothers and 3
percent of white children. As of 2012, 73 percent of African American
children are born to un wed mothers, 53 percent of Latino mothers, and 29
percent of white children. (Coker, 2007) These statistics indicate that this
growth of children out of wedlock are across all races throughout America. It

also indicates that this epidemic has moved from inner cities to suburban
neighborhood. It is not a problem just effecting minorities, but all races and
socioeconomic classes in America. This change in American culture effects
not only the way children are brought up, but where are government spends
our money. Single parent families are four times more likely to be
impoverished than two parent family. This brings about the problem of
welfare, and increase in the national deficit. Without the resources of a
second parent, single parent households are on average more impoverished,
giving children less opportunity to succeed. With each new generation over
the last fifty years, the plight of the family has worsened, and the problem is
getting harder to ignore. In 1960, 70% of young men showed maturity by
age 30, while today, the opposite is true: 70% of young men are not grown
up by 30 years of age. Today, 70% of children will not grow up with their
mothers and fathers at home, and the trend is only growing bleaker. In 20
years there will be very few young men who are grown up enough to provide
for their wives and childrenThe family is dying a slow and miserable death
in the West. (Swanson, 2012)
Most would agree that putting an end to all premarital sex is virtually
unattainable. However, decreasing the epidemic that stems from the
consequences of casual sex, begins with the education of young people. If
people were more aware of the effect of a large amount of sexual partners,
maybe the shocking statistics linked to physical health, psychological health,
and marriage quality, would improve. Despite our heavily sexualized culture,

the healthiest option is waiting for a long term relationship, if not marriage,
for sex.

Works Cited
Barter, B. (2014, 9 2). National Marriage Project: Results.
Retrieved 11 4, 2015, from National Marriage Project:
Coker, A. (2007). Correlates and consequences of early initiation
of sexual intercourse. Pub Med .
Demaris, A., & Rao, K. (n.d.). Coital frequency among married and
cohabiting couples in the United States. Retrieved from Phil
Ethier, K. (2006, March). Self-esteem, emotional distress and
sexual behavior among adolescent females. Pub Med .
Gordon, A. (n.d.). The Cohabitation Effect. Retrieved from
Berkeley Science Review:
Institute, T. G. (2003). Trends in Premarital Sex in the US.
Retrieved November 12, 2015, from PubMed:
McLanahan, S. S. (2012, December). Child Wellbeing in Two-Parent
Families. Princeton University Psychology Journal .
Meier, A. M. (2007). Adolescent First Sex and Subsequent Mental
Health. American Journal of Sociology .
Swanson, K. (2012). State of Family in Modern America. Vision
Forum .