Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Stability of Same-Sex Cohabitation, Different-Sex Cohabitation, and Marriage

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Stability of Same-Sex Cohabitation, Different-Sex Cohabitation, and Marriage

Article excerpt

This study contributes to the emerging demographic literature on same-sex couples by comparing the level and correlates of union stability among 4 types of couples: (a) male same-sex cohabitation, (b) female same-sex cohabitation, (c) different-sex cohabitation, and (d) different-sex marriage. The author analyzed data from 2 British birth cohort studies: the National Child Development Study (N = 11,469) and the 1970 British Cohort Study (N = 11,924). These data contain retrospective histories of same-sex and different-sex unions throughout young adulthood (age 16-34) from 1974 through 2004. Event-history analyses showed that same-sex cohabitations have higher rates of dissolution than do different-sex cohabiting and marital unions. Among same-sex couples, male couples had slightly higher dissolution rates than did female couples. In addition, same-sex couples from the 1958 and 1970 birth cohorts had similar levels of union stability. The demographic correlates of union stability are generally similar for same-sex and different-sex unions.

Key Words: cohabitation: gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender; marriage; social support; social trends/social change; stability.

In an era of high divorce rates, family scholars have sought to identify the forces that contribute to the stability of couple relationships. In doing so, they have compared the stability of marriages and unmarried cohabitations, marriages preceded by cohabitation and marriages that were not, and unions composed of partners with varying demographic characteristics. Although less studied than other union types, same-sex couples also represent a unique opportunity to study cohesion in couple relationships. Most same-sex couples currently lack the institutionalization that underlies couple stability, but jurisdictions are increasingly offering legal recognition to same-sex couples. Although same-sex couples remain socially stigmatized, attitudes are also growing more accepting. These shifts allow researchers to study how legal and social institutionalization contributes to the stability of all couple relationships, not just samesex ones (Biblarz& Savci,2010). In addition, the gender composition of same-sex couples - two men or two women - allows researchers to study how gender affects the stability and functioning of intimate relationships more generally (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983).

An important first step in investigating these theoretically rich issues is to describe the demography of same-sex unions. Spurred by the growing availability of data, researchers have begun to study the levels and correlates of stability for same-sex unions in Sweden, Norway (Andersson, Noack, Seierstad, & WeedonFekjaer, 2006), and The Netherlands (Kalmijn, Loeve, & Manting, 2007). My research builds on these studies by studying a new set of correlates (e.g., birth cohort) and describing the stability of same-sex couples in Britain, a country with less legal and social acceptance of same-sex couples compared to The Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden (European Commission, 2007). In the research described in this article, I compared the levels and correlates of stability for male and female same-sex cohabitation, different-sex cohabitation, and different-sex marriage (hereafter marriage for brevity). I also explored whether the correlates of union stability - including birth cohort, union history, and family background - are similar for the different types of couples. To investigate these questions, I analyzed data from two British cohort studies: the National Child Development Study (NCDS; 1958 birth cohort) and the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS; 1970 birth cohort). The NCDS and BCS collected retrospective histories of same-sex and differentsex coresident unions since age 16 (Bynner, Butler, Ferri, Shepherd, & Smith, 2005). For brevity, I refer to coresident unions as couples because the NCDS and BCS focused on couples that live together. The NCDS and BCS are unique in that they contain comparable histories of same-sex and different-sex unions for two young adult cohorts spanning a long time period (1974-2004). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.