Living together first is 'not a marriage killer' - but youth is

Age, not premarital cohabitation, is the real factor that raises risk of divorce, research finds

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 March, 2014, 11:19pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 March, 2014, 11:19pm

Even as it has become the norm in Western countries for couples to live together before they get married, some sociologists still support the notion that people who cohabitate before marriage are more likely to divorce.

But now new research suggests the real factor that raises the risk of divorce. According to a paper by Arielle Kuperberg in the April issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family, it is not premarital cohabitation that predicts divorce. It is age.

It has long been known that there is a correlation between age at first marriage and divorce - the younger you get married the first time, up until your mid-20s, the more likely your marriage is to break up.

Kuperberg, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, looked at data from the National Survey of Family Growth from 1996-2010 and found that the same goes for cohabitators.

If you move in together in your teens or early 20s, then you are more at risk for divorce; the reason that couples who move in together young break up "is the same reason age of marriage is a predictor of divorce: people aren't prepared for those roles", Kuperberg says.

So why did the idea that cohabitation leads to divorce persist for so long? Part of the problem was that no one had run the numbers using age; they merely compared people who cohabitated with people who married without living together first.

Some sociologists now consider marriage to have become a "capstone". Many people in Western societies today marry once they are done with their education and are financially solvent, whereas in the 1950s and 1960s, marriage was a "cornerstone", which means that people got married before they had accomplished their goals and used that marriage as a solid foundation to go for those goals.

As Kuperberg says, when couples now get married young, they tend to become settled and stop pursuing their education.

Though the divorce rate has gone up slightly in the US in recent years, it is still far lower than it was 20 years ago, in part because the age at first marriage keeps going up. But fewer people are getting married now, too.

Besides age, another predictor of divorce is when couples have children before even moving in together. According to Kuperberg, couples that had a child pre-cohabitation had a 57 per cent higher likelihood of splitting when compared to couples who did not have a child before moving in together.

Strong marriages are also becoming something of a class privilege, where wealthy and educated people have better marriages than ever, and lower down the socioeconomic ladder people are not getting married at all.

Groom arrested on honeymoon after drunken row with bride on flight

A groom on his honeymoon got into a drunken argument with his bride aboard a flight from Atlanta to Costa Rica, forcing the Delta Air Lines aircraft to make an emergency landing on Grand Cayman Island.

The US citizen was escorted from the flight on Sunday night after it landed by Cayman Islands police, and was being held in custody on a charge of drunk and disorderly conduct, according to Royal Cayman Islands chief inspector Raymond Christian.

The bride remained aboard for the flight to San Jose, Costa Rica, he said. He did not name the bride or the groom. The removed passenger could face further charges under international air law, he added.

Delta spokeswoman Lindsay McDuff confirmed on Monday that a "disruptive customer" prompted the crew of flight 901 to divert to Grand Cayman. "The flight landed without incident and the customer was met by local authorities," McDuff said.

It was the second time in recent weeks that the airline had reportedly performed an emergency landing because of drunken behaviour by a passenger. On February 7 a Delta flight from Baltimore to Salt Lake City was diverted due to an unruly female passenger who was described by officials as intoxicated. Reuters