Diverging Pathways of Marriage by Women’s Education

Cohabitation by Amount of Education  1995-2010


The most striking recent findings in regards to patterns of marriage is the variations in cohabitation by the educational level of women.  This chart comparing women with less than a high school degree with those women who earn a Bachelor degree is telling.  In 1995 46% of women with less than a high school degree started a first union as cohabitation.  In 2010 that percentage is now 70%.  For women with a Bachelor’s degree, cohabitation is more common, but only 47% of these women are starting their first union as cohabitation.  The more education that women have, the less likely they are to begin their first union as cohabitation.  The complete report on cohabitation trends is available from the National Center for Health Statistics.   

Do Hurricanes Influence Marriage and Divorce?

There is relatively little study of how natural disasters impact marriage and family relationships, but here are a few of the studies:

Cohan, C. L., & Cole, S. W. (2002). Life course transitions and natural disaster: Marriage, birth, and divorce following hurricane Hugo. Journal of Family Psychology, 16(1), 14-25. doi:10.1037/0893-3200.16.1.14

Lowe, S. R., Rhodes, J. E., & Scoglio, A. A. J. (2012). Changes in marital and partner relationships in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina: An analysis with low-income women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 36(3), 286-300. doi:10.1177/0361684311434307

Cohabitation & Divorce

Should you live with your future spouse before tying the knot? Does cohabitation provide a good trial run for marriage or is it just a sign of a lack of commitment? Research evidence on this frequently debated topic has been mixed over the last decade. What does the science say today?

Wendy Manning and Jessica Cohen took a look at recent marriages (since 1996) to see what the latest evidence looks like. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that many couples are cohabiting prior to marriage. The most recent estimates from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research indicate that about two-thirds of all couples live together before getting married. From 1987 to 2008, there has been a steady increase in the number of couples living together across the entire age range.

This is an area in which there has been mixed scientific evidence.  This new report by Manning and Cohen provides some new insights.  See an extended discussion of this report on Huffington Post….

Doherty — therapy with Mixed Agenda Couples

Over the last several years, Dr. William Doherty has been exploring ways of working with distressed couples that may be seeking counseling and/or trying to avoid divorce…. or at least one member of the couple would like to avoid divorce.  Here is a recent paper in which he summarizes some of his suggestions for therapists on how to work with these couples.  He writes,

An estimated 30 percent couples coming to therapy are mixed agenda couples where one is leaning out of the relationship and the other wants to save it. Much research has shown that at the time of divorce filing, most couples are split on wanting the divorce.  New research shows that many people in the legal divorce process are ambivalent about whether it’s the best course to take. Because we lack models and protocols for these
couples, therapists mainly muddle their way through, often losing them.

You can find more of his work at Minnesota Couples on the Brink and Dr. Bill Doherty.