About two-thirds of married adults and 61% of cohabiting adults cite companionship as a major factor. For older women, the percentage married has stagnated, hovering at 52.6% in 1990 and 52.7% in 2015. This paradox merits further conceptual and empirical attention. A similar pattern occurs when comparing individuals in same-sex couples to those in different-sex couples: men have equivalent health outcomes whereas women’s health is worse, on average, in same-sex than different-sex cohabiting couples (Baumle, 2014). Remarried individuals have more education than either cohabitors or unpartnereds, on average. Cohabitation operates as an alternative to marriage for older adults and is increasingly replacing remarriage following divorce or widowhood. Childlessness is on the rise for older adults internationally, and the proportions divorced are also expected to increase in the coming years, reflecting family patterns established earlier in the life course and raising new questions about the availability of family support and caregiving in later life (Kinsella & Phillips, 2005). The prevailing framework of individualized marriage, marked by self-fulfillment, flexible roles, and open communication, pervades across the generations (Cherlin, 2004). Marital biographies are now diverse, so collecting more detailed marital and cohabitation histories for same-sex and different-sex relationships is warranted to ensure researchers can identify the components of the marital biography that are most closely tied to well-being in later life (Umberson, Thomeer, Kroeger, Lodge, & Xu, 2015). Nine-in-ten married adults and 73% of cohabiting adults say love was a major factor in their decision. Time spent in either the divorced or widowed state is related to worse health outcomes, including chronic conditions and mobility limitations (Hughes & Waite, 2009), although not to cardiovascular disease (Zhang & Hayward, 2006). Marriages are for procreation and ensuring the continuation of the species. Indeed, the gray divorce rate is 2.5 times higher for those in a remarriage than a first marriage (Brown & Lin, 2012). Now entering older adulthood, boomers remain at the vanguard of family change, eschewing marriage, and embracing unmarried partnerships such as cohabitation. Still, a narrow majority sees societal benefits in marriage. 2 Most Americans (69%) say cohabitation is acceptable even if a couple doesn’t plan to get married. Older adults are taking advantage of the flexibility afforded by unmarried partnerships, including cohabitation (Calasanti & Kiecolt, 2007). 5 About four-in-ten cohabiting adults cite finances (38%) and convenience (37%) as major reasons they moved in with their partner. Moreover, the negative health effects of divorce are not necessarily immediately apparent and can emerge years later (Hughes & Waite, 2009), reinforcing the stress model perspective that stipulates marital dissolution is a stressful life event that often involves enduring, chronic strains which take a toll on health (Zhang et al., 2016). In poorer quality marriages, the health benefits are often negligible or even negative compared to the alternative of getting divorced (Zhang et al., 2016). The centrality of marriage has receded in modern society and living alone or with an unmarried partner are now viable alternatives (Cherlin, 2004). (+1) 202-419-4372 | Media Inquiries. Marriage is the process by which two people make their relationship public, official, and permanent. Among cohabiting adults who were not engaged when they moved in with their partner, 44% say they saw living together as a step toward marriage. Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World. Economic disadvantage combined with potentially fewer sources of social support leave unmarried older adults particularly vulnerable in the event of a health crisis (Zhang, Liu, & Yu, 2016). As individuals experienced divorce either first hand or within their social networks, the stigma attached to divorce diminished. Sexuality Research and Social Policy 1: 1–10. From a life course perspective, it is plausible that key turning points such as an empty nest, retirement, or failing health could prompt couples to reflect on their marriage and decide to get divorced. An important task for future research is to evaluate whether the outcomes associated with gray divorce are similar to widowhood as well as whether repartnering reduces the negative effects of disruption. 7 Most Americans favor allowing unmarried couples to have the same legal rights as married couples. As the family life course experiences of older adults become more varied, it is important to move beyond current marital status. Rather, the same factors that are associated with divorce earlier in the adult life course are most salient for gray divorce, too. U.S. family life is characterized by marked demographic change. First, Uhlenberg and Myers (1981) noted that widespread divorce created new norms about the acceptability of calling it quits. Nearly all (89%) older adult cohabitors are previously married (Brown, Lee, & Bulanda, 2006). (, Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. This compilation of articles includes topics such as: Marital duration is inversely associated with divorce and remarriages tend to be of shorter duration than first marriages. The goal of this article is to review recent scholarship on marriage, cohabitation, and divorce among older adults and identify directions for future research. © The Author 2017. The relationship dynamics of later life cohabitation are akin to remarriage. Finally, approximately 10% of older cohabitors have no health insurance, whereas only 6% of unpartnereds and 4% of remarried individuals are uninsured. The link between marriage (vs. cohabitation) and higher levels of relationship satisfaction and trust remains even after controlling for demographic differences between married and cohabiting adults (such as gender, age, race, religious affiliation and educational attainment). The gray divorce revolution is unfolding in a larger social context in which the meaning of marriage (and divorce) has shifted dramatically in recent decades (Wu & Schimmele, 2007). Adult children’s relationships with married parents, divorced parents, and stepparents: Biology, marriage, or residence? The relationship quality and stability of older cohabitors exceeds that of younger cohabitors, even though older cohabitors are relatively unlikely to report plans to marry their partners (King & Scott, 2005). Finally, lengthening life expectancies have changed the calculus about divorce. Marital quality is negatively associated with divorce. Susan L Brown, PhD, Matthew R Wright, PhD, Marriage, Cohabitation, and Divorce in Later Life, Innovation in Aging, Volume 1, Issue 2, September 2017, igx015, https://doi.org/10.1093/geroni/igx015. When an older adult experiences a health decline does the partner step in to help or is it the adult child who serves as the caregiver? Thank you for submitting a comment on this article. Department of Sociology, Bowling Green State University. Still, marital disruption itself is associated positively with cardiovascular disease (Zhang & Hayward, 2006). And couples with fewer economic resources, namely wealth, are at greater risk of gray divorce (Lin, Brown, Wright, & Hammersmith, 2016). Marriage is traditionally a heterosex… Same-sex couples aren’t the optimum environment in which to raise children. Likewise, unmarried couples can continue to receive Social Security and pension benefits that may terminate upon remarriage. Cohabitation is now growing more rapidly among older than younger adults. But empirical research reveals they are not associated with a couple’s risk of gray divorce. 1615 L St. NW, Suite 800Washington, DC 20036USA Theory development on nonmarital relationships is also vital as the motivations for dating or cohabitation are unlike those that prevail earlier in the life course. 3. Description: The Journal of Marriage and Family (JMF), published by the National Council on Family Relations, is the leading research journal in the family field and has been so for over sixty years.JMF features original research and theory, research interpretation and reviews, and critical discussion concerning all aspects of marriage, other forms of close relationships, and families. Remarried individuals have the highest median household income at $101,027, followed by cohabitors with $88,829, and $55,519 among unpartnered persons. 6 Many non-engaged cohabiters who want to get married someday cite finances as a reason why they’re not engaged or married. The Weisfeld’s have conducted marriage research for 30+ years. Wendy Manning, co-director of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University, says delaying marriage is … The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) provides some basic insights. 6. About 77% of older men and 56% of older women were married. Some have shunned marriage altogether whereas others are calling it quits later in life. Cohabitation levels more than doubled among men from 1.5% to 3.6% and from less than 1% to 2.6% between 1990 and 2015 for women. For cohabiting women, having friends and family close by is associated with a lower likelihood of marrying and a greater chance of breaking up with the partner (Vespa, 2013), which suggests that women with larger support networks may be less committed to their cohabiting partners because they have alternative sources of social support. In fact, researchers have challenged the conventional finding that marriage is advantageous for well-being, arguing instead that the apparent gains to marriage are actually due to the detrimental influences of disruption on health (Williams & Umberson, 2004). Rather, the most common union outcome for older cohabitors is dissolution resulting from the death of the partner (Brown et al., 2012). First, there has been a slight increase in people who never marry, especially for men (Lin & Brown, 2012). 7 demographic trends shaping the U.S. and the world in 2018, Among U.S. cohabiters, 18% have a partner of a different race or ethnicity, Mormons more likely to marry, have more children than other U.S. religious groups, 8 facts about love and marriage in America, Defining generations: Where Millennials end and Generation Z begins, In past elections, U.S. trailed most developed countries in voter turnout, 5 facts about the QAnon conspiracy theories, So far, Trump has granted clemency less frequently than any president in modern history. Underscoring the growing diversity of marital statuses in later life, these patterns signal that traditional lifelong marriage that eventuates in spousal loss is decreasingly characteristic of the older adult family life course. Second, the increase in remarriage that accompanied the divorce revolution also portended a rise in subsequent divorce as remarriages are at higher risk of divorce than first marriages. We present prevalence estimates of, and differences in, reported reasons for recent breakdown of marriages and … Note: Statistics are from Table 2 of Brown et al. Bulcroft and Bulcroft’s (1991) conclusion more than a quarter century ago that explanations for dating in young adulthood do not readily apply to older adult dating remains true and extends to other relationship types such as cohabitation. “Marriage doesn’t make you happy,” says Harvard psychology professor and happiness expert Daniel Gilbert. Today’s baby boomers (born 1946–1964), for example, were the generation that as young adults popularized premarital cohabitation and experienced the divorce revolution. Cohabitation enables couples to preserve their financial autonomy, ensuring their wealth transfers to their offspring rather than their partner. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. This paper, through literature review attempts to assess the situation, the consequences, various programmes and recommendations on the reduction of child marriage. Their quality of life could actually improve following divorce. As for demographic profiles, older adult cohabitors are distinct from both older remarried and unpartnered individuals. 4 Many cohabiting adults see living together as a step toward marriage. For individuals with a disability or functional limitations, a high quality marriage helps to minimize the psychological burdens related to quality of life whereas a low quality marriage diminishes mental health and quality of life (Bookwala, 2011). Marriage In fact, some of the most dramatic shifts in family life are occurring among adults aged 50 years and older (Cooney & Dunne, 2001). This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs licence (. A., Borell, K., & Karlsson, S. G. (, Dupre, M. E., Beck, A. N., & Meadows, S. O. In short, there are arrays of relationship options for older adults that merit consideration in future research. Recent decades have witnessed a retreat from marriage, sustained high levels of divorce, and a rapid acceleration in unmarried cohabitation (Cherlin, 2010; Kennedy & Ruggles, 2014). But it does raise some questions. They perceived this was due to adolescents eloping together, and reinforced by access to internet through smartphones. Cohabitors are the most likely to be working (62%). Home » Our Mission » Research » Marriage and Couples The infographic below highlights some of Dr. John Gottman’s most notable research findings on marriage and couple relationships. Looking at present relationships, 53% of adults ages 18 and older are currently married, down from 58% in 1995, according to data from the Current Population Survey. Consistent with the cumulative disadvantage perspective, dissolutions appear to have additive negative effects on health, as individuals who experience two divorces fare worse, on average, than those who only divorce once (Dupre, Beck, & Meadows, 2009; Zhang, 2006). The decline was sharper for women, whose levels of widowhood plummeted from 31.6% to 18.9%. In 2015, figures stood at 14.3% for men and 18.1% for women. Over one-fifth of cohabitors (21%) and 17% of unpartnereds report being poor compared with less than 5% of remarrieds. At … Finally, we conclude with a discussion of directions for future theoretical and empirical research on family change in later life. Marital quality as a moderator of the effects of poor vision on quality of life among older adults, The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, The significance of nonmarital cohabitation: Marital status and mental health benefits among middle-aged and older adults, Journal of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences, Cohabitation among older adults: A national portrait, Transitions into and out of cohabitation in later life, Relationship quality among cohabitors and marrieds in older adulthood, The gray divorce revolution: Rising divorce among middle-aged and older adults, 1990–2010, Journals of Geronotology, Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences, Age variation in the remarriage rate, 1990–2011 (pp, National Center for Family & Marriage Research Family Profile, Later life marital dissolution and repartnership status: A national portrait, Dating relationships in older adulthood: A national portrait, Older adults’ attitudes toward cohabitation: Two decades of change, The nature and functions of dating in later life, Generations: Journal of the American Society on Aging, Advances in families and health research in the 21st century, Demographic trends in the United States: A review of research in the 2000s, The deinstitutionalization of American marriage, As cheaply as one: Cohabitation in the older population, Ambivalence and living apart together in later life: A critical research proposal, Intimate relationships in later life: Current realities, future prospects, The dilemma of repartnering: Considerations of older men and women entering new intimate relationships in later life, Parents’ partnership decision making after divorce or widowhood: The role of (step)children. Likewise, the shares of never-married and cohabiting older adults have risen over the past 25 years. From a financial standpoint, it seems gray divorce and widowhood may be largely equivalent for men, but for women, gray divorce is often a bigger economic shock. While marriage is often seen as an essential step in a successful life, the Pew Research Center reports that only about half of Americans over age 18 … Adults are living healthier longer, which could nudge them to make a significant life change like gray divorce. Our goal is to review the recent literature on older adult (which we define as aged 50 years and older) marriage, cohabitation, and divorce. A recentstudyof 25,000 people in England found that among people having a heart attack, those who were married were 14% more likely to survive and they were able to leave the hospital two days sooner than single people having a heart attack. A growing share does not seem to feel compelled to remain coupled. As of 2015, more than one in three boomers (37%) was unmarried (authors’ calculation using the 2015 American Community Survey). One reason for the rise of cohabitation in later life is because fewer older adults are married, meaning a larger share is eligible to cohabit. The transition to marriage among older cohabiting couples, while unusual, appears to follow a gendered pattern of exchange in which men are most likely to marry when they are in poor health and have considerable wealth whereas women’s marriage entry is highest when they have little wealth and excellent health (Vespa, 2013). Over the same period, the share of Americans who are living with an unmarried partner has risen from 3% to 7%. When one’s marriage fails to live up this standard, divorce is viewed as an acceptable solution. After raising children and having careers, many couples retire only to find that they do not enjoy spending time together (Bair, 2007). Yet, comparative research on partnerships and unions in later life is slim. Gerontologists and family scholars are only beginning to investigate the patterns and consequences of these new frontiers in later life couple relationships. Among cohabiters who are not currently engaged, half of those with a bachelor’s degree or more education and 43% of those with some college experience say they saw moving in with their partner as step toward marriage. Marriage is based on the truth that men and women are complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, … Number of cohabiting individuals aged 50 years and older, 2000–2016. U.S. family life is characterized by marked demographic change. Older cohabitors are less likely to provide care to their partners than are older married spouses (Noël-Miller, 2011). Among adults ages 18 to 44, 59% have lived with an unmarried partner at some point in their lives, while 50% have ever been married, according to Pew Research Center analysis of the National Survey of Family Growth. No nationally representative studies thus far have examined determinants of child marriage in … This early research articulated numerous economic and social benefits of cohabitation in later life. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide, This PDF is available to Subscribers Only. In turn, repartnering following divorce further weakens men’s relationships to their children (Kalmijn, 2013; Noël-Miller, 2013). Badgett M (2004) Will providing marriage rights to same-sex couples undermine heterosexual marriage? Marriage, Family, and Sexuality Family Research Council champions marriage and family as the foundational cornerstone of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society. Third, remarriage rates have declined 60% in recent decades and have stalled among older adults (Brown & Lin, 2013; Sweeney, 2010). W hen Americans debate the value of marriage, most attention focuses on the potential harm to children of divorce or illegitimacy, and for good reason. Older adults in LAT relationships report less happiness than do cohabitors and married individuals, but also less relationship strain, which aligns with the notion that LAT couples can establish the relationship expectations and norms that work for them (Lewin, 2016). Today’s older adults have complex marital biographies, reflecting their varied experiences of cohabitation, marriage, divorce, and remarriage. There is little work on the consequences of gray divorce (Carr & Pudrovska, 2012) but it seems likely that the range of outcomes for older adults is more varied than for younger adults. What Does Your Spouse Really Want for Christmas? (, Fredriksen-Goldsen, K. I., & Muraco, A. Most Americans (69%) say cohabitation is acceptable even if a couple doesn’t plan to get married. 4 (See a related article, Stress and the Autism Parent). Percentage Distribution of Marital Status for Men and Women, 1990 and 2015. Divorce is among the most stressful life events and it can take years for individuals to recover psychologically, socially, and financially. For men, the share is about 13% regardless of dissolution type. By comparison, just 13% of married adults cite finances and 10% cite convenience as major reasons why they decided to get married. Among Whites, cohabitation is associated with higher mortality than marriage but this differential diminishes with age (Liu & Reczek, 2012), perhaps reflecting the unique role of cohabitation as an alternative to marriage in later life. Psychology at that time was having a great deal of difficulty establishing reliable patterns in the personality of one individual. 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