State of the union

Kevin Lewis

November 27, 2012

Reassessing the Link between Women's Premarital Cohabitation and Marital Quality

Spencer James & Brett Beattie
Social Forces, December 2012, Pages 635-662

Using data from 2,898 women from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-1979, we employ a novel method to examine two perspectives, social selection and the experience of cohabitation, commonly used to explain the negative relationship outcomes cohabiting women report. Results reveal cohabitation is negatively related to marital happiness and communication and positively related to conflict. As in previous research, selection mechanisms appear to increase the odds of cohabitation while decreasing marital happiness. A closer examination of the problem also reveals a negative effect of the experience of cohabitation. This paper's primary contributions are the ability to model selection and experience in the same model and evidence of a robust effect of cohabitation on marital quality. These results underscore the complex pathways between union formation, family structure and marital outcomes.


The Role of Cohabitation in Asset and Debt Accumulation During Marriage

Matthew Painter & Jonathan Vespa
Journal of Family and Economic Issues, December 2012, Pages 491-506

Research has found that married individuals who cohabited only once before marriage with their future spouse (i.e., "spousal cohabiters") have a distinctive financial advantage: they accumulate more wealth over time than individuals who married without ever cohabiting (i.e., "directly married"). Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 and growth curve models, the present study attempts to identify the source of spousal cohabiters' wealth advantage. We find that marriage is associated with gains for financial and nonfinancial wealth, increasing home equity, and decreasing debt over time. Spousal cohabiters begin marriage with more debt than the directly married. Conditional on education, income, and other key factors, spousal cohabiters pay down their debt faster and generate greater home equity over time thereby accumulating more wealth than the directly married. This pattern of financial behavior among spousal cohabiters explains some, but not all, of their financial advantage over married persons who never cohabited prior to marrying. Given the increasing prevalence of cohabitation among young adults, these results offer important insights into the long-term economic outcomes associated with premarital cohabitation.


Relationship Churning in Emerging Adulthood: On/Off Relationships and Sex With an Ex

Sarah Halpern-Meekin et al.
Journal of Adolescent Research, forthcoming

We build on the emerging adulthood literature to examine two forms of relationship instability, reconciliations and sex with an ex; we term these forms of relationship churning. Analyzing recent data on emerging adult daters and cohabitors (n = 792), we find that nearly half report a reconciliation (a breakup followed by reunion) and over half of those who break up continue a sexual relationship (sex with an ex). We analyze individual demographic, social psychological, and relationship factors associated with reconciliations and sex with an ex. These findings showcase that emerging adult relationships are characterized by considerable uncertainty and add to our theoretical and empirical understanding of stability in romantic relationships in emerging adulthood.


Friends with benefits relationships as a start to exclusive romantic relationships

Jesse Owen & Frank Fincham
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, November 2012, Pages 982-996

The current study examined whether young adults who start their exclusive romantic relationship via Friends with Benefits (FWB) relationships differed in relationship functioning from those who did not. After controlling for other salient predictors of relationship functioning (e.g., alcohol use, attachment style), young adults who were in FWB relationships prior to becoming exclusive reported lower relationship satisfaction when compared to young adults who did not. There were no significant associations between FWB status and communication quality or ambiguity in commitment levels. FWB status was not associated with relationship termination over the course of 4 months. Collectively, starting exclusive romantic relationships via FWB relationships had little apparent impact on later relationship functioning.


Educational Differences in Marital Dissolution: Comparison of White and African American Women

Jeounghee Kim
Family Relations, December 2012, Pages 811-824

Although the trend of marital dissolution has diverged by education in recent decades, literature was not clear about whether African Americans experienced a significant educational difference in marital dissolution. This study hypothesized that educational differences within the African American community have emerged and that the growth in this difference was larger for African Americans than for Whites in the 1990-1994 and 1995-1999 marriage cohorts. Using the Wave 2 Topical Modules of the 2001, 2004, and 2008 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation, this study analyzed a series of discrete time-logit models but failed to find significant evidence to support the 2 hypotheses. Similar to the experience of White women in recent years, however, the probability of marital dissolution has been on the steady decline among African Americans regardless of their educational attainment since the 1990s.


Insult to Injury: Disability, Earnings, and Divorce

Perry Singleton
Journal of Human Resources, Fall 2012, Pages 972-990

This study measures the longitudinal effect of disability on earnings, marriage, and divorce. The data come from the Survey of Income and Program Participation matched to administrative data on longitudinal earnings. Using event-study methods, the results show that the onset of a work-preventing disability is associated with a precipitous decline in earnings and an increase in divorce. Consistent with theory, the association between disability and divorce is greatest among young and educated males who experience a work-preventing, rather than a work-limiting, disability.


Accounting for the Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Entry Into Marriage: A Genetically Informed Study of Selection and Causation

Erin Horn et al.
Journal of Family Psychology, forthcoming

Married adults show better psychological adjustment and physical health than their separated/divorced or never-married counterparts. However, this apparent "marriage benefit" may be due to social selection, social causation, or both processes. Genetically informed research designs offer critical advantages for helping to disentangle selection from causation by controlling for measured and unmeasured genetic and shared environmental selection. Using young-adult twin and sibling pairs from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Harris, 2009), we conducted genetically informed analyses of the association between entry into marriage, cohabitation, or singlehood and multiple indices of psychological and physical health. The relation between physical health and marriage was completely explained by nonrandom selection. For internalizing behaviors, selection did not fully explain the benefits of marriage or cohabitation relative to being single, whereas for externalizing symptoms, marriage predicted benefits over cohabitation. The genetically informed approach provides perhaps the strongest nonexperimental evidence that these observed effects are causal.


Cohabitation Is No Longer Associated With Elevated Spousal Homicide Rates in the United States

Bridie James & Martin Daly
Homicide Studies, November 2012, Pages 393-403

Margo Wilson and collaborators discovered that cohabiting couples had very much higher spousal homicide rates than those in registered marriages, and cross-national research has shown this difference to be widespread. We now find that homicide rates in the two sorts of unions have converged in the United States, such that the previously large difference had completely vanished by 2005. Distinct age patterns whereby registered marriages are most lethal in youth and cohabitation is most lethal in middle age have nevertheless persisted. While their homicide rates were converging between 1990 and 2005, married and cohabiting couples were not growing more similar in their basic demographic attributes: age distributions and unemployment rates remained distinct, and differences in education and income actually increased. Why homicide rates in the two classes of unions have ceased to differ remains unknown. We suggest some lines of research that may help provide answers.


Comparing Marital Status and Divorce Status in Civilian and Military Populations

Benjamin Karney, David Loughran & Michael Pollard
Journal of Family Issues, December 2012, Pages 1572-1594

Since military operations began in Afghanistan and Iraq, lengthy deployments have led to concerns about the vulnerability of military marriages. Yet evaluating military marriages requires some benchmark against which marital outcomes in the military may be compared. These analyses drew from personnel records from the entire male population of the active components of the U.S. military between 1998 and 2005, and from the Current Population Surveys from the same years, to compare the likelihood of being married or divorced between service members and civilians matched on age, racial/ethnic composition, employment status, and education. Results indicate that service members are significantly more likely to be married, but are not more likely to be divorced, than civilians with matched characteristics. These patterns have not changed substantially since the current conflicts began.


The economic value of virtue

Fabio Mariani
Journal of Economic Growth, December 2012, Pages 323-356

This paper analyzes the interaction between socioeconomic factors and the value and prevalence of female virginity. Using a simple model of the marriage market, in which premarital chastity is an important factor influencing spouse selection, we show that the prevalence of virginity increases with male inequality, social fluidity, overall economic development, the gender gap and, under certain conditions, social status. We also build a dynamic version of the model, showing that it can reproduce both the emergence and the subsequent decline of chastity in favor of a more widespread practice of premarital sex. The implications of our theory are consistent with some historical and cross-cultural evidence.


Sooner or later? The marital horizons of parents and their emerging adult children

Brian Willoughby et al.
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, November 2012, Pages 967-981

Grounded in a marital horizon theory of emerging adulthood, this article presents a study that provides an evaluation of the differences between parents' and emerging adults' views about marriage. Using a sample of 536 emerging adults and their parents (446 mothers, 360 fathers) recruited from five college sites from across the United States, the study sought to identify parents' marital ideals for their children and to investigate how these attitudes compare to those of emerging adults themselves. Results demonstrated that there are significant differences between parents and emerging adults with regard to marital horizon factors. Specifically, parents reported a higher desired age for marriage, lower importance of marriage as a life goal, and emphasized different criteria of marriage readiness than their emerging adult children. Results also suggest that contemporary patterns of delayed marriage among emerging adults are generally supported, and perhaps encouraged, by parents.


A Critical Examination of Popular Assumptions About the Benefits and Outcomes of Monogamous Relationships

Terri Conley et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Review, forthcoming

In this article, we critically examine the social institution of monogamy. First, we discuss the lack of an adequate and consistent definition of the construct of monogamy and consider how common monogamy is. Next, we address perceived benefits of monogamy and whether those ostensible benefits are supported by empirical evidence. We conclude that evidence for the benefits of monogamy relative to other relationship styles is currently lacking, suggesting that, for those who choose it, consensual non-monogamy may be a viable alternative to monogamy. Implications for theories of close relationships are discussed.


Marriage Trajectories and Health Risk Behaviors Throughout Adulthood Among Urban African Americans

Kerry Green, Elaine Doherty & Kate Fothergill
Journal of Family Issues, December 2012, Pages 1595-1618

Although previous studies have identified a protective effect of marriage on risky health behaviors, gaps remain in our understanding of how marriage improves health, particularly among African Americans. This study uses longitudinal data to take selection into account and examines whether marital trajectories that incorporate timing, stability, and duration of marriage affect health risk behaviors among a community cohort of urban African Americans followed for 35 years (N = 1,049). For both men and women, we find six marital trajectories. Men and women in consistently married trajectories are less likely to smoke, drink heavily (women only), and use illegal drugs than those in unmarried or previously married trajectories. Late marrying men do not fare worse in midlife than men in earlier marrying trajectories, but late marrying women show increased risk of midlife drug use. Results suggest policies supporting marriage may have an impact on health but only if stable unions are achieved.


Does love mean never having to say you're sorry? Associations between relationship satisfaction, perceived apology sincerity, and forgiveness

Karina Schumann
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, November 2012, Pages 997-1010

Most past research on apologies examines participants' responses to imaginary transgressions or minor offenses against strangers. This research consequently neglects how the quality of pre-existing relationships might influence responses to apologies in everyday life. I examined whether relationship satisfaction moderated the association between apologies and forgiveness in romantic relationships by influencing perceptions of apology sincerity. Members of 60 married or cohabiting couples first assessed their relationship satisfaction. Participants then completed daily diaries, reporting transgressions by their partners, apologies by their partners, perceived apology sincerity, and willingness to forgive their partners. Apologies predicted forgiveness only for participants highly satisfied with their relationships. In addition, relationship satisfaction was positively associated with participants' ratings of the sincerity of the apologies, which in turn predicted forgiveness. The findings suggest that, relative to less satisfied individuals, highly satisfied individuals are more forgiving following apologies, because they regard their partners' apologies as sincere expressions of remorse.


Cash transfers and domestic violence

Melissa Hidrobo & Lia Fernald
Journal of Health Economics, forthcoming

Violence against women is a major health and human rights problem yet there is little rigorous evidence as to how to reduce it. We take advantage of the randomized roll-out of Ecuador's cash transfer program to mothers to investigate how an exogenous increase in a woman's income affects domestic violence. We find that the effect of a cash transfer depends on a woman's education and on her education relative to her partner's. Our results show that for women with greater than primary school education a cash transfer significantly decreases psychological violence from her partner. For women with primary school education or less, however, the effect of a cash transfer depends on her education relative to her partner's. Specifically, the cash transfer significantly increases emotional violence in households where the woman's education is equal to or more than her partner's.

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