Cohabitation

How would PCT explain the somewhat counterintuitive finding that couples
who cohabit before marriage have significantly higher rates of divorce
than couples who do not cohabit before marrying?

- Jim Chriss

[Martin Taylor 970401 15:15]

James Chriss (apparently Tue, 1 Apr 1997 12:55:14 -0600)

James, If you are going to contribute regularly to CSGnet (and I hope
you will), would you mind noting that we sustain a convention about the
form of messages, to aid cross-referencing? The message body starts
with your name and a time-date stamp (or in some people's case a date
and letter code. For me this would be 970401d under that convention.
Then you follow with whatever quote symbol you use, such as ">", and
there identify the message to which you are responding, using the header
identifier of that message. With many threads going on at once, this
convention makes life a lot easier.

Sorry for the lecture. Now:

How would PCT explain the somewhat counterintuitive finding that couples
who cohabit before marriage have significantly higher rates of divorce
than couples who do not cohabit before marrying?

Ask why PCT says anybody does anything. "All behaviour is the control of
perception."

If somebody has been behaving in a certain way for some time, and then
changes, one of two things must have happened. Either there has been a
disturbance to some perception, or there has been a change of reference
value for that perception.

What perception might there be for which the effective behaviour is a change
from cohabitation to marriage? In any particular case, one cannot tell
without performing "the Test." But there are some candidates that make
sense to me: (1) The couple now want a child and think that the child would
be better off in a married union, (2) The couple now perceive themselves as
"drifting apart" (3) The parents are now disturbing the couple in some way
that might be affected by marrying. There must be lots of other possibilities.

Let's suppose that these three are the only possibilities, and that they
are equally probable across all couples. For couples of class (1), marrying
probably doesn't affect the closeness of the couple, though the child may.
So (hypothetically) such couples don't affect the divorce rate. For couples
of class (2), marrying probably won't much influence the way they feel
about each other. They would have split and will divorce--or not, both
ways. In class (3) there is disturbance that would not have occurred had
they been married right away, and even if the particular nagging goes away
after the marriage, the irritation with "your mother" "No, YOUR mother"
may persist.

If this is even a reasonable parody, then the divorce rate for couples
of class (2) soon after marriage will be considerably higher than for
marriages on average, and for couples of type (3) it will be higher than
for those having similar kinds of parents but who marry right away.
For couples of class (1), getting married probably doesn't affect their
divorce rate much.

So overall, one would expect the divorce rate to be higher after a delayed
marriage than after one that would have been conventional a couple of
generations ago. But this hides a multitude of different individual cases,
some of which probably go along with a reduced rate of divorce after
cohabitation rather than before (e.g. the inexperienced teenagers eloping
as opposed to living together for a couple of months and then splitting).

Martin

James Chriss wrote:

How would PCT explain the somewhat counterintuitive finding that couples
who cohabit before marriage have significantly higher rates of divorce
than couples who do not cohabit before marrying?

- Jim Chriss

Pray, tell us who obtained this finding originally and how it was
obtained.
Having observed little cultural blipverts like this over the years,
it almost invariably turns out that the original perpetrators of these
myths are conservative religious groups intent on rolling things
back to the '50's.

Do they include the length of time that a couple have been cohabiting
in the comparison? If couple A cohabited for 4 years, got married, and
then divorced after 2 years, whereas couple B just got married and
got a divorce after 3 years, who has been together longer?

The way to lower divorce rates is simple: don't get married in the
first place. My partner and I have been cohabiting together for 19
years,
we have 2 children, and we're happy. Essentially, we're off the radar
screens of all these idiotic social surveys that go around.....

People get married and/or live together for many different and complex
reasons
(we just don't like the religious, legal, and cultural baggage
associated
with the institution; emotional bonds should be primary, not the piece
of paper,
not the legitimation of a relationship by church or state). Since
marriage/
cohabitation select for people with certain attitudes towards a whole
constellation
of social arrangements, it's not necessarily the case that couples who
might have
cohabited first will stay together longer if they marry before living
together.

Please think about what you say before parroting isolated bits of
"conventional wisdom."

Peter Cariani

[From Rick Marken (960402.1215 PST)]

James Chriss (970401) --

How would PCT explain the somewhat counterintuitive finding
that couples who cohabit before marriage have significantly
higher rates of divorce than couples who do not cohabit before
marrying?

I think Martin Taylor (970401 15:15) and Peter Cariani (970402)
have already given nice answers to this. I think both Martin's
and Peter's replies are consistent with what I was going to say,
viz. that PCT would "explain" this finding as being a side effect
of the controlling (of perceptions unknown to us) done by the
individuals in the study.

Unless it were found that 99% of the variance in marital status were
accounted for by length of premarital cohabitation, I don't think PCTers
would even try to use PCT to explain this finding. PCTers
might however, be willing to point out that results like these should
not be applied to individuals. For example, telling someone, based
on the findings of this study, that they are more likely to stay married
if they don't cohabit, is a scurrilous lie.

By the way, I would like to know whether (and how) _any_ theory purports
to explain this finding.

Best

Rick