Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Cohabitation: An Alternative Form of Family Living

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Cohabitation: An Alternative Form of Family Living

Article excerpt

WU, Zheng, COHABITATION: An Alternative Form of Family Living. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press, 2000, 200 pp., $22.50 softcover.

This volume forms part of a series of in-depth studies of the social, political, and economic dimensions of Canadian society as shaped by demographic history. This slender book, which looks at the increasing trend of cohabitation in Canada, has the look and feel of a doctoral dissertation. Wu examines changes in the trends of heterosexual couples living together outside of marriage. He points out that between 1981 and 1996, Canadian census data show that the number of cohabiting couples more than doubled, from 356,000 to more than 920,000 and that common-law unions increased from 6% to 14% of all heterosexual unions. Surprisingly, cohabitation as a lifestyle is particularly popular in the largely Francophone [Catholic] province of Quebec, where nearly 1 out of 4 heterosexual couples in not married, compared to 1 out of 9 elsewhere in Canada. One in every 7 families currently involves unmarried couples, compared with 1 in 17 only 15 years ago. About 50% of cohabiting couples' families also include children, either born to the cohabiting couple or brought into the family from previous relationships. Over two-thirds of cohabiting persons have never been married and over a quarter are divorced. Cohabitations are often short-lived with over 50% of unions ending within 3 years. However, about one-third of cohabiting couples marry each other within 3 years of cohabiting, while one one-quarter dissolve their relationships through separation.

Wu uses sociological, demographic and economic data to examine the phenomenon of cohabitation, including such topics as cohabitation trends, shifting attitudes in the population, how and why people choose cohabitation as an alternative to or as a trial for marriage, childbearing, the breakup of these relationships, the individual and societal consequences of cohabitation, and the future of this kind of family living. Wu believes that cohabitation may be the result of changing sexual mores, the changing roles of women, structural changes to the Canadian economy and several other reasons why cohabitation makes a viable lifestyle choice. …

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