NON MARITAL COHABITATION HAS INCREASED
In frontier America, where churches and government offices were few and distant, common law marriage was common and respectable. Although there was no marriage license or ceremony, these couples invited and accepted a public recognition of themselves as husband and wife. Such common-law marriages were entirely legal and binding, provided an acceptance and recognition of them as husband and wife could’ be shown. This, however, created uncertainties and invited abuses. As the frontier passed, most states withdrew recognition of common-law marriages as legal and binding. ‘There have always been some unmarried couples who lived together openly as “lovers” rather than as- husband and wife. Except in sophisticated, “arty” circles, they were generally condemned as scandalous and immoral. Today, however, nonrnarital cohabitation without any commitment to marry has become, quite common. Between 1970 and 1981, non marital cohabitation multiplied by times, to include 3.6 million persons [U.S.. Bureau of the Census, 19820, p. 5], although married-couple households outnumber non married- couple households about 30 to 1. Non marital cohabitation.in Sweden, which was fairly common but viewed as deviant until about 1965, is reported as fully institutionalized by 1975 [Trost, 1979, p. 186]. A longitudinal study of 111 cohabiting Swedish couples found that after 3’12 years, 22 were separated, 25 had married, and 51 were still cohabiting [Trost, 1979, p., 173). Non marital cohabitation has become quite common in the United States, with varying degrees of acceptance by parents and others. Whether it will ever become institutionalized is an open question. For most cohabiting couples, non marital cohabitation seems just another stage of the courtship process, without any firm commitment to marry [Macklin, 1978, p. 233). Macklin estimated in 1976 that about one-fourth of all American college students had cohabited, another one-half would do so if an acceptable partner appeared, undone-fourth would not do so [Macklin, 1978, p. 213]. While most cohabiting couples have made no firm commitment to marry, most do marry or else they separate within a few years. Very few plan or will choose non marital cohabitation as a permanent life-style [Macklin, 1978, p. 234]. In a Good Housekeeping poll [March, 1978, p. 88] one-half the cohabiting informants had married their partner, and another one-fourth were still cohabiting. Thus, cohabitation has become a fairly common preliminary to marriage, a point easily confirmed by noting the addresses of marriage license applicants as printed in the newspaper.
One study of cohabiting persons’ scores on the Minnesota Multicast Personality Inventory found that cohabiting college students, (IS compared with other students, tended to be somewhat more irreligious, nonconformist, immature, impulsive, manipulative, selfish, outgoing, friendly, fun-loving, and ere dative [Catlin et al., 1976). But the more common non marital cohabitation becomes, the more closely will such couples approach a representative cross section of their age group. If has often been suggested that some font of “trial” .marriage would prevent a lot of mismatches and unhappy marriages. There is no convincing evidence that non marital cohabitation does this. Research studies quite consistently show that notarial cohabitation is remarkably like conventional marriage ,in its problems and adjustments and that non marital cohabitation has scarcely any measurable effects upon the marriages of those who marry [Blaine, et al., 1975; Stafford, 1977; Macklin, 1978, pp. 215-228; Jacques and Chason, 1979; Risman and Hill, 1981J. We may conclude that non marital cohabitation has become a widely accepted preliminary to marriage but is having very little effect upon marriage and the family