An event history analysis of premarital cohabitation transitions and divergent relationship pathways

Open Access
Beattie, Brett Aaron
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
September 30, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Paul Richard Amato, Dissertation Advisor
  • David R Johnson, Committee Member
  • Valarie Elizabeth King, Committee Member
  • David Eggebeen, Committee Member
  • cohabitation
  • relationships
  • marriage
  • family
  • event history
  • latent class
Cohabitation has become one of the most widely studied, and hotly debated, intimate relationship forms. Little consensus exists on what function cohabitation serves for young adults and what motivates (or inhibits) a transition to marriage from cohabitation. There exists a cohabitation paradox in which recent cohorts are showing higher rates of cohabitation, and higher rates of dissolution from cohabitation, which combine to produce higher rates of serial cohabitation; yet support for marriage remains extremely high and remains the desired relationship form. This dissertation explores this paradox by using the concept of a relationship pathway. By using data from multiple relationships and multiple partners, I am able to map out a complete premarital cohabitation history for a nationally representative sample of American young adults. By leveraging these multiple relationships, I am able to examine three key aspects of a young adult’s relationship path. First I include partner information to examine the interplay between respondent variables and partner information and test dyadic theories of relationship cohesion and related gender roles. Second, I construct a frailty variable to parse out an individual’s unique hazard for each relationship outcome and quantify how much influence an individual’s enduring traits impact transition likelihood. Third, I conduct a latent class analysis to uncover relationship pathways within the data. I find that adding partner variables did not significantly add to a model’s predictive power, suggesting that there was a high level of homogeny between a respondent and their partner. However, the frailty variable stayed stable throughout various model specifications, suggesting that a respondent’s unique unobserved traits are uncorrelated with the observed variables in this study. This monograph discovered 5 distinct cohabitation pathways that young adults take on their way to marriage and find that cohabitation serves very different purposes among these groups. However, there are strong similarities in the transition hazards between classes, suggesting a common underlying process. I find strong evidence that cohabitation experiences are driven by a person’s enduring traits and find strong selection effects into individual cohabitation pathways. I also find support for marital search theory, with longer partner searches and an improving partner pool both associated with higher chances of marriage. I also present evidence that a respondent’s circumstances at the start of a relationship has a large impact on the hazards of transitions. I conclude by encouraging research into relationship pathways, rather than discrete relationship events.