Links between Premarital Cohabitation and Subsequent Marital Quality, Stability, and Divorce: A Comparison of Covenant versus Standard Marriages

Susan L. Brown, Bowling Green State University
Laura A. Sanchez, Bowling Green State University
Steven Nock, University of Virginia
James D. Wright, Central Florida University

We explore whether covenant marriage, above and beyond selection effects associated with it, provides a social context for couples to attain greater marital stability, despite their cohabitation experiences. The lawmakers who created covenant marriage believe that a covenant is a way for couples with “knocks against them” to wipe the slate clean at the start of marriage and provide a risk-reducing bond to survive the turmoil of the early years of marriage. If cohabitation is associated with greater likelihood of divorce, can a covenant rather than standard marriage weaken or eradicate this effect? We use three waves of data collected from covenant and standard married newlyweds in Louisiana to explore the mediating and moderating effects of covenant marriage on cohabitation experience, to reduce the negative effects of cohabitation on perceived chances of divorce, hostile conflict resolution strategies, and actual divorce rates.

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Presented in Session 136: Should Public Policy Promote Marriage? How Can It?