Cohabitees more likely to divorce

Couples who live together before getting married are more likely than those who don’t to hit problems later on, a new US study shows.

One in five young married couples who cohabited before being engaged had considered divorce, researchers at the University of Denver found.

They experienced lower marital satisfaction, dedication, and confidence as well as negative communication.

Two thirds of the 1,050 married 18 to 34-year-olds questioned for the study said they “slid into” living together or “talked about it, but then it just sort of happened”.

Galena Rhoades, who led the study, is senior researcher for the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University. Commenting on the figures she said: “Cohabiting to test a relationship turns out to be associated with the most problems in relationships”.

She added: “Perhaps if a person is feeling a need to test the relationship, he or she already knows some important information about how a relationship may go over time.”

Yesterday a new report was released by the Centre for Social Justice, which is run by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, outlining new policies to encourage marriage instead of cohabitation.

The report, entitled Every Family Matters, calls for tax breaks for married couples and urges couples to explore the possibility of reconciliation before starting divorce proceedings.

Earlier this month a new collection of studies revealed that choosing to cohabit rather than marry can more than double a woman’s risk of becoming a single mother by the time her child is five.

The co-editor of the collection said public policy has until now assumed that family breakdown is “unavoidable” and has focused on “how to manage” the consequences.

But, he wrote: “Many families clearly do come through difficult times intact. It is perhaps little known that, even today, most UK marriages still last a lifetime”.

He called for “an overall strategy geared towards stemming and turning back the rising tide of family breakdown”, including the provision of relationship education.

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