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January 26, 2012 Print

Study: Cohabiting Better Than Marriage

by Catherine Snow

According to a soon-to-be-published study, cohabiting couples are happier and have more self-esteem than married ones.

Using data from the National Survey of Families and Households, Cornell University’s Kelly Musick and Larry Bumpass of the University of Wisconsin-Madison compared the well-being of both married and cohabitating couples including levels of depression, happiness and health.

“We found that differences between marriage and cohabitation tend to be small and dissipate after a honeymoon period,” the researchers said in a statement. “Also while married couples experienced health gains — likely linked to the formal benefits of marriage, such as shared health-care plans — cohabiting couples experienced greater gains in happiness and self-esteem. For some, cohabitation may come with fewer unwanted obligations than marriage and allow for more flexibility, autonomy and personal growth.”

Glenn T. Stanton, Focus on the Family’s director of global family formation studies, said this study flies in the face of an impressive and diverse body of research.

“This is an interesting study in that it’s conducted by two respected scholars and published in a very reputable journal,” Stanton said. “However, research has repeatedly shown that married adults and their children generally tend to do better in all important measures of well-being than those who are single, cohabiting, divorced or even re-married.

“One must look at the overall trend of research findings over many years, if not decades, to glean the general and consistent consensus of the research community. This study is clearly contrary to that larger consensus.”

The study will appear in the February issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family.

Read “Why Marriage Matters: An Argument for the Goods of Marriage.”

Read “The State of Our Unions, Marriage in America 2010: When Marriage Disappears: The New Middle America.”

Read Citizen Magazine’s review of Glenn T. Stanton’s book “The Ring Makes All the Difference.”