In the United States today, the percentage of married adults has reached
an all time low. Researchers form the University of Central Oklahoma and
Cornell University conducted a study, which was published in the December
2011 issue of Family Relations, into the diminishing rate of marriage
by interviewing 122 people in cohabitating relationships.
By interviewing these people, the researchers found that 67 percent of
these cohabitating couples had fears about the emotional, financial, social
and legal consequences of divorce, and
the worries of having to deal with the fallout of divorce, made them leery of marriage. The researchers found that middle-class couples
had a more favorable view of marriage when compared to working-class people.
Middle-class couples also viewed cohabitation as a stepping stone to marriage.
Those who were more likely to have doubts about the “trap”
of marriage, were lower-income women. These women felt marriage would
lead to more domestic responsibilities with, basically, very few benefits,
and also felt that it might be difficult to end the marriage should the
Many working-class cohabitating couples had the opinion that marriage was
“just a piece of paper”, and would be no different than their
current relationship. Another fear of these couples is they were afraid
of becoming dependant on their spouse’s income and, thus, be unable
to leave a bad marriage.
A Pew Research Center study reported that just over half of adult Americans
are married, which is the lowest rate in decades. However, these low rates
are due in part to people marrying later and the rise of cohabitation.
This study does point out the fear of divorce does weigh heavily on the
minds of cohabitating couples, and these couples tend to delay or avoid marriage.
The findings in these studies, researchers say, could help premarital counselors
devise lessons that address the specific concerns and also ease the fears
of divorce for unmarried couples of all socioeconomic classes.