Marriage and Cohabitation

Marriage and Cohabitation

Marriage and Cohabitation

Marriage and Cohabitation

Synopsis

In an era when half of marriages end in divorce, cohabitation has become more commonplace and those who do get married are doing so at an older age. So why do people marry when they do? And why do some couples choose to cohabit? A team of expert family sociologists examines these timely questions in Marriage and Cohabitation, the result of their research over the last decade on the issue of union formation.

Situating their argument in the context of the Western world's 500-year history of marriage, the authors reveal what factors encourage marriage and cohabitation in a contemporary society where the end of adolescence is no longer signaled by entry into the marital home. While some people still choose to marry young, others elect to cohabit with varying degrees of commitment or intentions of eventual marriage. The authors' controversial findings suggest that family history, religious affiliation, values, projected education, lifetime earnings, and career aspirations all tip the scales in favor of either cohabitation or marriage. This book lends new insight into young adult relationship patterns and will be of interest to sociologists, historians, and demographers alike.

Excerpt

Throughout history, the family has been a central—some would argue the central—institution in human society. Historically, the family has been involved in almost all activities of human life, including, but not limited to, production, consumption, reproduction, parenting, social relations, governance, religion, and leisure. As a collective unit, the family has provided its members a common environment within which to interact, care for each other, and share resources. Although the precise role of the family in organizing specific social activities has changed over time, the centrality of the family to human society remains in place. Today, as has been true for thousands of years, the family is still a primary unit of human interaction, providing the basis for both generational renewal and individual linkage to the larger society.

Throughout most of the recorded history of the Western world, a family consisting of a wife, a husband, and children was the main social institution that structured the lives, activities, and relationships of women, men, and children. In the Western world, marriage governed the essential processes of mate selection and sexual expression; it was also the place for childbearing and childrearing. The marriage and family unit was the primary economic locus of society, being the main place of production, consumption, and the distribution of property within and between gener-

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