Is cohabitation the right alternative to marriage? The increasing amounts or studies done in relation to cohabiting couples shows that this controversial topic is more common than most American’s think. Marriage used to be considered a defining event in a couple’s relationship, often marking the beginning of intimate relations, sharing a common household, and even childbearing. By definition, unmarried cohabitation is the status of couples who are sexual partners, not married to each other, and sharing a household (Popenoe). These two definitions seem to be similar in what each union reflects, but outwardly marriage includes a legal union that is meant to be a lifelong commitment. The meaning and permanence of marriage may be changing as cohabitation increases, (Casper 40) and this is in turn creating a society who is largely focused on self-fulfilling events, no commitment, and a lower understanding of what is best for our children. The research done regarding the effects cohabitation has on children, morality based on religious opinion, and the consequences of cohabitation explain why this growing change in society is wrong.
Thirty years ago, living together for unmarried, heterosexual couples was against the law (Popenoe). It is facts like that which make the moral changes in society seem unpredictable. Who would have thought that something as sacred and universally understood as marriage would become so subtle. The proportion of unmarried women who were cohabiting tripled, from 3 to 9 percent, between 1978 and 1998, and unmarried men who were cohabiting increased from 5 to almost 12 percent (Casper 41). Statistics follow along with the changing society. Just as the age for marriage has increased, this has led to more cohabiting couples. Some people practice cohabitation to postpone marriage, others to avoid marrying at all. Cohabiting couples also figure that they are showing sufficient commitment through a shared housing contract. This way they aren’t just practicing premarital sex, but they are taking another step towards the marriage without conforming to the cultural norm. The change from a religious focused American culture to a more secular society has also altered views on cohabitation. Due to all of the moral issues involved with living together outside of marriage, cohabiting is more common among less religious individuals (Popenoe). With the cultural norms changing to be more unconventional, occurrences of couples cohabiting will continue to increase as the value of family bound through marriage declines.
For a long time now, there has been numerous studies done on the correlation between the family structure and how children are raised (Parke 2). Now days, it isn’t hard to think of someone who is involved in a cohabiting relationship in some way. Nearly half of all children today will spend some time in a cohabiting family before age 16 (Popenoe). Many cohabiting individuals may try to argue that they would...