Living in sin? Turns Out it is Not so Bad for You

Is premarital cohabitation more likely to lead to divorce?.

Are you living with your romantic partner but not married? Did you know that it was once believed that living together before marriage was a predictor of divorce for those couples who did eventually get married? If you have gotten slack about your living arrangements from family members or anyone else, read this article, and maybe forward it to them.

How common is it for premarital couples to live together?

Research over the years has shown that cohabitation prior to marriage leads to a greater likelihood of divorce.

Many also have religious views that discourage couples to live together unless they are married.

Even so, many couples find themselves living together before making the big commitment to each other. Choosing to move in together cuts costs and keeps beds cozy without the stress of having to say "til death do we part." In fact, premarital cohabitation has risen nine hundred percent in the past fifty years, with seventy percent of women ages thirty to thirty-four having lived with a male partner prior to marriage.

Is premarital cohabitation really a likely predictor of divorce?

While these rising rates of cohabitation may be concerning because of older research that showed how premarital couples living together were more likely to wind up divorced, research is now showing that cohabitation may not be such a bad idea after all. Many couples who move in together prior to marriage wind up staying married after all.

Research sheds a different light on previous findings regarding premarital cohabitation

Sociologist Arielle Kuperberg, from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, has studied the correlation between premarital cohabitation and divorce. Her research has debunked some of the former findings in the field regarding a documented correlation between premarital cohabitation and divorce.

Kuperberg has found that in many of the previous studies that examined the correlation between premarital cohabitation and divorce, researchers used the age of marriage in their data, as opposed to the couple's age when they moved in together. As a result, the risk of divorce was likely overestimated in prior studies, because in her studies, the risk of divorce appeared to have more to do with the age of commitment than whether or not a couple was living together before tying the knot.

For some women who had a higher than average risk of divorce due to factors such as having a premarital birth or more than the average number of sexual partners, premarital cohabitation was found to be less likely to lead to divorce than moving in together following marriage.

What is the real predictor of divorce, if it is not premarital cohabitation?

Kuperberg has found that premarital cohabitation has less to do with divorce than does the age that couples commit to each other. She notes that when couples commit to each other who are younger, less mature and less experienced, they are less likely to stay married.

Regardless of whether a couple gets married or moves in together, if they do so at a young age, especially before twenty-three years, they will see a higher likelihood of divorce.


Booth, A. and D. Johnson. (1988) Premarital Cohabitation and Marital Success. Journal of Family Issues 9:255–72.

Kuperberg, A. (2014) Does Premarital Cohabitation Raise Your Risk of Divorce? Council on Contemporary Families: Brief Reports.

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