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SOCIOLOGY: Single life and cohabitation analysis. 2001.
Singlehood & Cohabitation
Demographers note that there has been a steady increase in the number of single adults in the U.S.,
attributable to the influence of several social factors.
Waiting Longer Before Marrying:
Average age at 1st Marriage
Decade Males Females
+4 years
+3 years
Increase in Age at 1st Marriage
This means there are more unmarried adults in the population between the ages of 20 and 25 years of
The Divorce Rate has steadily risen since the end of World War II. At that time the rate of divorce was
about 20%. The rate of divorce rose to an all time high of just over 52% in the mid-1980s when it leveled
off (and perhaps dropped a bit). This means there are more divorced, unremarried adults in the
The Marriage Squeeze refers to the availability of marriable men in the population as women get older.
As women move into their early twenties, the number of marriable men in their age group (usually
about 3 years older on average) is roughly equal to the number of women.
As women move into their late twenties/early thirties, that number drops to about 100 women for
every 97 men. Mid-to-late 30s, the ratio is about 100 to 90, and early 40s the ratio is about 100 to 85-87.
Some note that the quality of the marriage pool of eligibles also drops over the lifespan, with the best
ones (most likely to be the kind who will stay married) getting married early on. The reason for the
squeeze has to do with the way men and women remarry - women tend to want to remarry someone
about 3-6 years older than themselves, while men tend to want to remarry the increasingly younger
There is also less social pressure to marry before becoming sexually active. Once perhaps the main
reasons to marry - to have children and to have a more socially approved sexual outlet - sex is much less
important as a reason to marry today. The traditional sequence of relationship development was:
THEN: dating - talking - kissing - love - engagement - marriage - sex - baby
TODAY: dating - talking - kissing – sex - love – engagement – marriage – baby, (or baby – marriage) –
The Women's Movement has enlightened women in some segments, especially regarding the necessity
of education and attainment of some measure of job security. Thus, for women who are encouraged in
SOCIOLOGY: Single life and cohabitation analysis. 2001.
school, marriage will be pushed farther into the future. Additionally, more education and higher income
employment actually makes marriage more difficult to attain for women
Finally, there are growing doubts about the institution of marriage in general. The social fabric - which
served to place young people together, encourage them in their marital choices, and nurture new
marriages through initial years - has suffered neglect. Having less primary group support for the
enterprise of marriage, young people make it up as they go, often making mistakes that are fatal to the
marriage. Thus, their children are not prepared or have good role models for marriage.
Why Do People Remain Single?
Career Comes First - actually a good, safe attitude.
Perceived Chances for Sex with Wide Variety of Partners
Desire to Maintain Personal Freedom
Desire for Continued Personal Growth
Increased Social Conditions Precluding Early Marriage
Who are the Singles?
Never Married Singles - Youngest Group 25 million men 20 million women
Separated & Divorced - The Midlife Group. 18 million total
Widowed Singles - The Oldest Group. Women outnumber men 5 to 1
It is important to note that women who remain single and are college educated have:
Higher I.Q.'s
More Education
More Prestigious Occupations
Higher Incomes
Better Mental Health / Well Being
These are women actively choosing singlehood over marriage.
Stereotyping Single Adults:
Men and Women who remain single are thought of as suspect, possibly homosexual, spinsters (i.e., old
maids), tied to their mother's apron strings, and selfish. In truth they are, financially better-off, happier,
and have fewer responsibilities.
Sex and the Single Person
Sex with Successive Partners - the average number of sex partners for women was 2 to 10 for
readers of Cosmopolitan Magazine.
Sex without Intimacy - the dominate value in our society seems to tend toward sex with
affection (love or something like it).
Sociological Problems Awaiting Singles:
SOCIOLOGY: Single life and cohabitation analysis. 2001.
Sexual Exploitation - Pressure to have sex as the price of another date - Recently divorced, and
others whose self-esteem is a little on the low side.
Date Rape - Between 20% and 30% of all college students (even some men) have reported
forceful attempts made on them to perform sexually.
Relationships with married men/women
Singlehood as a Stage of Development vs. a Life Style
Singlehood and possibly cohabitation are the precursors to marriage, since 95% of all Americans will
marry at sometime during their lives.
A Typology of Singlehood
Cohabitation: Living Together
Replacement of traditional courtship
Trial Marriage
Alternative to marriage.
Cohabitation does seem to lead to marriage, that is, cohabitors are just as likely to marry SOMEONE (not
necessarily the one with whom they cohabit), as are people who do not live together.
There is little to suggest that cohabitors are any more likely to marry each other than are couples who
stick to the traditional premarital sex, long term, living apart dating/engagement routine.
Types of Cohabiting Relationships
Linus blanket - security needs
Emancipation - feeling adult
Convenience - cheaper, handier to live together
Evaluating Cohabitation - Advantages
Greater sexual satisfaction, more self-disclosure, and more intense feelings of intimacy.
Greater opportunity to understand and evaluate self - and other person.
Opportunity to test the other person in all kinds of situations.
A higher standard of living, resulting from the pooling of resources.
Premature limiting of the dating experience - a big deal.
Perpetuation of the traditional wife role
Unequal emotional involvement Change in social life and reduction in friends
legal complications.
SOCIOLOGY: Single life and cohabitation analysis. 2001.
Here is what sociologists know about cohabitation:
College students seem to approve of cohabitation outside of marriage, in principle anyways.
Two factors that statistically predict positive attitudes about cohabitation are LOW RELIGIOSITY and
Most couples who cohabit do not enter into the activity without fairly careful consideration.
The formation of a cohabiting relationship is really no different from "normal" courtship patterns from
the past, except for the added feature of living together. Noncohabiting couples in the college age
group, who develop serious, caring relationships are just as likely to add sexual activity to their
relationship. In fact, the decision to move in together often takes a "processual" nature: "It all started
when she left her jacket in my closet … next thing I knew, we were splitting the grocery expenses."
The factors affecting the degree to which an individual experiences or perceives the opportunity to
Environmental opportunity (pool of eligibles)
Sociocultural norms within the immediate environment
Isolation from conventional social control agents (living away from family, church, etc.)
Interpersonal attractiveness