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Abstract

In view of the recent emergence of cohabitation as an alternative form of courtship, it is important to determine its possible effects on the subsequent marital union. Are the premarital experiences, marital goals, patterns of marital power and levels of conflict discernably different for those who have lived together before marriage? Comparing cohabitors with noncohabitors , we attempted to pursue this question in a sample of 139 recently married, nonparental, college matriculating, young adults using a lengthy focused interview.

Largely due to parental pressures "to make it legal", both cohabitors and noncohabitors moved towards matrimony with equal speed, marrying at approximately the same age. In the first years of marriage, cohabitors were highly concerned with the educational and career goals of both spouses and were much more likely to espouse postponed parenthood or voluntary childlessness. Cohabitors were judged to have a higher proportion of egalitarian unions in comparison to the more husbanddominated unions of the noncohabitors. With respect to marital conflict, however, no significant differences in levels of conflict between the two groups were found; although different areas of disagreement and modes of conflict resolution seemed to occur.

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