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Selection effects are factors that can explain why some people experience poor outcomes that appear to be associated with some behavior (for example, cohabiting) when the poor outcomes are really more associated with other characteristics in one’s life (for example, poverty). The pre-engagement cohabitation effect: A replication and extension of previous findings.

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However, those who have been reading the media stories carefully may well have gotten the message in answer B. Answer C is close to what I’d say is a correct answer if I’d asked you what the research shows about cohabiting prior to marriage—but that is not the question that I asked.

If you know a lot of research on cohabitation, you might have picked answer C. I think most people absorbing some aspect of these stories (and all those like them) would have gotten the message that there are no risks to cohabiting.

For example, with poverty, one will have additional pressures to cohabit in situations where it may be extra risky. Timing is everything: Pre-engagement cohabitation and increased risk for poor marital outcomes.

I refer you to the thoughtful comments in the later part of the Live Science story; the research by Sharon Sassler is quite thoughtful on such issues. Journal of Family Psychology, 18, 311-318.; Rhoades, G.

My personal favorite is the first one, but the most curious headline, to me, is the second.

I’d think you should want to tell both father and your mother the good news. The Effects of Sexual Timing on Marriage Relationships. That is as technical as I am going to get in this piece. Historical trends in the marital intentions of one-time and serial cohabitors. doi: 10.1111/jomf.12083 viii Jayson, Shannon, “Cohabiting women having more babies,” USA Today, July 24, 2012; see also this document from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. (I plan to write another more technical comment on her study soon, where I will describe what I like and what I am concerned about in her statistical procedures.) At the heart of it, Kuperberg asserts that scores of researchers have had it wrong for decades, and that maybe there never has been an association between cohabiting before marriage and divorce. Arielle Kuperberg, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, finds that when accounting for the age of moving in together, there is no difference in divorce rates between cohabiters and those who moved in after marriage. In analyzing the risk for divorce associated with cohabiting prior to marriage, Kuperberg focused on the age that people moved in together rather than the age at which people marry, finding that the former is more important than the latter in understanding divorce risk. The impact of the transition to cohabitation on relationship functioning: Cross-sectional and longitudinal findings. doi: 10.1037/a0028316; for evidence that constraints make staying together more likely, regardless of dedication to be together, see Rhoades, G. “Cohabitation does not cause divorce — yay,” Kuperberg told Live Science, adding the exclamation because about two-thirds of new marriages in the United States start with cohabitation. When she controls for the age people were when they moved in with their partners, the association between cohabiting prior to marriage and divorce gets weaker than it otherwise seems to be. But does that conclusion seem consistent with the findings I just listed? Historical trends in the marital intentions of one-time and serial cohabitors.

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