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Research explores connection between cohabitation, divorce

According to a new government study, couples in Maryland and across the country who live together before getting married do not necessarily face the increased chance of divorce they once had. The lead researcher behind the study explained that cohabitation before marriage is no longer the important factor in predicting divorces as it once was.

The research, which was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that nearly half of first marriages end in divorce before lasting 20 years. While 60 percent of couples in Maryland and across the U.S. live together before betting married today, only 10 percent of couples did so in the late 1960s. The CDC surveyed 22,000 American men and women between the ages of 15 and 44, around 40 percent of whom were married. The survey was conducted between 2006 and 2010.

"[Cohabitation before marriage] is so common," explained the co-director for a branch of the National Center for Family and Marriage Research. She added, "It's not surprising it no longer negatively affects marital stability."

According to the study, couples who lived together before getting married were just as likely to experience marriages that lasted 15 years as those who only began living with each other after their weddings. However, couples that lived together but did not become engaged during that time were less likely to stay married for longer amounts of time. Couples that either did not cohabitate or those that did and were engaged had approximately a 60 percent likelihood of staying married for 15 years before divorce. Couples that lived together without making a marriage commitment were about 7 percent less likely to stay wed for the same length of time.

Experts say that cohabitation means various things to different couples. Some individuals live with significant others repeatedly and produce children, while others may live together as a "trial marriage."

Source: Detroit Free Press, "Living together before marriage no longer predicts divorce," Susan Ballenger, March 25, 2012

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