The Effect of Premarital Cohabitation on Marital Stability over the Duration of Marriage

Ronald A. Budinski, Frank Trovato


Research has shown that premarital cohabitors who eventually marry are more
likely to divorce or separate than persons who do not cohabit prior to marriage. This study investigates the possibility that the difference in marital stability between cohabitors and non-cohabitors may change with increasing duration of marriage. Using Canadian 1995 General Social Survey data, various
Proportional Hazards Models were specified to compare the marital dissolution risks of cohabitors and non-cohabitors, while controlling for a set of relevant factors. Initially, it was found that both groups had virtually identical dissolution risks. However, further specification of the hazards model indicated that indeed cohabitors have a greater risk of marital dissolution than noncohabitors. Further tests to differentiate between short- and long-term unions indicated that premarital cohabitors have a greater dissolution risk in the first ten years of their union, while non-cohabitors have a greater hazard after ten years of marriage. We discuss these findings in the context of the North American based literature on cohabitation and marriage dissolution, and offer suggestions for further study.

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