When an older adult experiences a health decline does the partner step in to help or is it the adult child who serves as the caregiver? A key task for future research is to address whether those in same-sex or different-sex cohabiting or marital unions experience similar health outcomes and whether these outcomes vary by gender (Fredriksen-Goldsen & Muraco, 2010). Recent decades have witnessed a retreat from marriage, sustained high levels of divorce, and a rapid acceleration in unmarried cohabitation (Cherlin, 2010; Kennedy & Ruggles, 2014). Married adults are more likely than those who are living with a partner to say things are going very well in their relationship (58% vs. 41%). The dramatic increase in wives’ labor force participation when these older people were at their prime changed the marital bargain by making wives less dependent on their husbands (Schoen, Astone, Kim, Rothert, & Standish, 2002). Several demographic trends have contributed to growth in unmarried older adults. Smaller shares of those with a high school diploma or less education (28%) say the same. (+1) 202-857-8562 | Fax Among men, 5% were never-married in 1990 versus 9.1% in 2015. 7 Most Americans favor allowing unmarried couples to have the same legal rights as married couples. The economies of scale traditionally confined to marriage also can be achieved through cohabitation and without the legal obligations marriage involves. Roughly four-in-ten (44%) say not being far enough along in their job or career is at least a minor reason why they’re not engaged or married to their partner. This national portrait echoes earlier research showing that older cohabitors tend to have fewer economic resources, including wealth and homeownership, than their remarried counterparts despite having largely comparable education and employment levels (Brown et al., 2006). For example, 80% of cohabiting women cite love as a major factor, compared with 63% of cohabiting men. Also, remarriage frequently results in stepfamilies, which present considerable challenges for couples as they blend children from prior relationships. It is also essential to address how these partnership dynamics impinge on other family ties, namely between parents and their children. Older adults have not been immune to family change. (, Umberson, D., Thomeer, M. B., Kroeger, R. A., Lodge, A. C., & Xu, M. (, Umberson, D., Williams, K., Powers, D. A., Liu, H., & Needham, B. 6. The rise in gray divorce is remarkable considering that the overall divorce rate has been stable since 1990 and is falling among younger adults, reflecting the growing selectivity of marriage for this age group (Kennedy & Ruggles, 2014). A third factor is women’s employment. Those who have repartnered are unlikely to be poor at only about 4% (Lin, Brown, & Hammersmith, 2017). Marriage The majority of both cohabitors (85%) and unpartnereds (56%) are divorced. In the 1970’s, systematic observation of couples started in the Gottman lab. From a life course perspective, it is plausible that key turning points such as an empty nest, retirement, or failing health could prompt couples to reflect on their marriage and decide to get divorced. Remarried individuals have the highest median household income at $101,027, followed by cohabitors with $88,829, and $55,519 among unpartnered persons. (, Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. 5. Third, remarriage rates have declined 60% in recent decades and have stalled among older adults (Brown & Lin, 2013; Sweeney, 2010). This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs licence (. Poor health could impede their ability to work, compounding financial difficulties. Likewise, there are notable differentials by gender and race in the benefits of marriage with men and Whites typically enjoying more advantages than women and non-Whites, although the gender differential may be attenuating (Carr & Springer, 2010). 2 Most Americans (69%) say cohabitation is acceptable even if a couple doesn’t plan to get married. Older adults are at the forefront of family change as a declining share experiences lifelong marriage and rates of cohabitation and divorce in later life continue to rise. The varied marital biographies of today’s older adults raise a host of questions about the diverse trajectories of the family life course after age 50. By contrast, in 2002, 54% of adults in this age group had ever cohabited and 60% had ever married. (, Fredriksen-Goldsen, K. I., & Muraco, A. Among adults ages 18 to 44, 59% have lived with an unmarried partner at some point in their lives, while 50% have ever been married, according to Pew Research Center analysis of the National Survey of Family Growth. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. The link between marriage (vs. cohabitation) and higher levels of relationship satisfaction and trust remains even after controlling for demographic differences between married and cohabiting adults (such as gender, age, race, religious affiliation and educational attainment). “Marriage doesn’t make you happy,” says Harvard psychology professor and happiness expert Daniel Gilbert. In Sweden, for example, about 10% of men and 6% of women were cohabiting in 2004 (Kohli et al., 2005). Likewise, unmarried couples can continue to receive Social Security and pension benefits that may terminate upon remarriage. These differentials emerge despite evidence that same-sex couples monitor and encourage healthy behaviors for their partners (Reczek, 2012). Multiple transitions, especially the experience of marital disruption, can be detrimental to health and well-being and these negative outcomes often persist over time and even after repartnering occurs (Hughes & Waite, 2009; Zhang et al., 2016). The median age of cohabitors (60) is younger than both remarrieds (63) and singles (68). For older women, the percentage married has stagnated, hovering at 52.6% in 1990 and 52.7% in 2015. (, Kohli, M., Kunemund, H., & Ludicke, J. Finally, we conclude with a discussion of directions for future theoretical and empirical research on family change in later life. Some have shunned marriage altogether whereas others are calling it quits later in life. To ensure researchers can capture the richness of the family life course experiences of older adults, major national data collections on older adults may benefit from expanding beyond the narrow focus on marital status to include non-coresidential relationships such as dating and LAT. 4 Many cohabiting adults see living together as a step toward marriage. This declining prevalence of marriage during the second half of life is driven largely by the baby boomer generation. Second, the rise in gray divorce (i.e., among those aged 50 years and older) results in newly single individuals who increasingly form cohabiting unions rather than remarriages (Brown et al., 2016). In fact, some of the most dramatic shifts in family life are occurring among adults aged 50 years and older (Cooney & Dunne, 2001). After raising children and having careers, many couples retire only to find that they do not enjoy spending time together (Bair, 2007). These findings challenge the marital resources model which stipulates that marriage provides spouses with psychological, economic, and social benefits that should enhance well-being (Zhang et al., 2016) and longevity (Dupre et al., 2009). The physical health benefits of cohabitation are largely unexplored. Marital strain exacerbates the decline in self-rated health that typically occurs over time, and this effect is larger at older ages (Umberson, Williams, Powers, Liu, & Needham, 2006). That advice was wrong. Brown, S. L., Lin, I. F., Hammersmith, A. M., & Wright, M. R.(2016). Adults are living healthier longer, which could nudge them to make a significant life change like gray divorce. Note: The figures for 1990 come from the decennial census data and the 2015 figures are from the American Community Survey. whether you know it or not. Nine-in-ten married adults and 73% of cohabiting adults say love was a major factor in their decision. Age and gender differences in the link between marital quality and cardiovascular risks among older adults, Aging cohabiting couples and family policy: Different-sex and same-sex couples, Online dating in middle and later life: Gendered expectations and experiences, A comparison of marriages and cohabiting relationships, Partner caregiving in older cohabiting couples, Repartnering following divorce: Implications for older fathers’ relations with their adult children, The promotion of unhealthy habits in gay, lesbian, and straight intimate partnerships, Marital histories and heavy alcohol use among older adults, Women’s employment, marital happiness, and divorce, Led by Baby Boomers, divorce rates climb for America’s 50+ population, Number of U.S. adults cohabiting with a partner continues to rise, especially among those 50 and older, Remarriage and stepfamilies: Strategic sites for family scholarship in the 21st century, Older widows’ attitudes towards men and remarriage, Gender, marriage, and health for same-sex and different-sex couples: The future keeps arriving, Challenges and opportunities for research on same-sex relationships, You make me sick: Marital quality and health over the life course, Living apart together relationships (LAT): Severing intimacy from obligation, Relationship transitions among older cohabitors: The role of health, wealth, and family ties, Union formation in later life: Economic determinants of cohabitation and remarriage among older adults, Dating for older women: Experiences and meanings of dating in later life, Marital status, marital transitions, and health: A gendered life course perspective, Psychological well-being among older adults: The role of partnership status, Marital history and the burden of cardiovascular disease in midlife, Gender, the marital life course, and cardiovascular disease in late midlife, Marital biography and health in middle and late life, Couple relationships in the middle and later years: Their nature, complexity, and role in health and illness. Over one-fifth of cohabitors (21%) and 17% of unpartnereds report being poor compared with less than 5% of remarrieds. As marriage rates have declined, the share of U.S. adults who have ever lived with an unmarried partner has risen. They report their findings in a journal article in Population and Development Review (September 2006) “There is … Same-sex cohabiting older adults are more socioeconomically advantaged than different-sex cohabitors and appear more comparable to different-sex married older adults (Baumle, 2014; Manning & Brown, 2015). In sickness and in health? As for demographic profiles, older adult cohabitors are distinct from both older remarried and unpartnered individuals. Time spent in either the divorced or widowed state is related to worse health outcomes, including chronic conditions and mobility limitations (Hughes & Waite, 2009), although not to cardiovascular disease (Zhang & Hayward, 2006). First, there has been a slight increase in people who never marry, especially for men (Lin & Brown, 2012). Couples often pursue LAT relationships rather than cohabit or marry because they have resident children (de Jong Gierveld & Merz, 2013). While most Americans say cohabitation is acceptable, many see societal benefits in marriage. The goal of this article is to review recent scholarship on marriage, cohabitation, and divorce among older adults and identify directions for future research. What Does Your Spouse Really Want for Christmas? About eight-in-ten adults younger than age 30 (78%) say that cohabitation is acceptable even if the couple doesn’t plan to marry, compared with 71% of those ages 30 to 49, 65% of those 50 to 64 and 63% of those 65 and older. Our review indicates that a growing segment of older adults may be at risk for poorer health outcomes and at the same time have fewer informal sources of support, necessitating additional institutional mechanisms for ensuring the health and well-being of today’s older population. They also express higher levels of satisfaction with specific aspects of their relationship, including the way household chores are divided between them and their spouse or partner, how well their spouse or partner balances work and personal life, how well they and their spouse or partner communicate, and their spouse’s or partner’s approach to parenting (among those with children younger than 18 in the household). Cohabitation enables couples to preserve their financial autonomy, ensuring their wealth transfers to their offspring rather than their partner. Yet, many couples divorce within a few years of remarrying. Over one-quarter of remarried older adults have at least a college degree, whereas just over one-fifth of cohabitors and one-fifth of unpartnereds have a college degree or more. Recent decades have witnessed a retreat from marriage, sustained high levels of divorce, and a rapid acceleration in unmarried cohabitation (Cherlin, 2010; Kennedy & Ruggles, 2014). Older adults in LAT relationships report less happiness than do cohabitors and married individuals, but also less relationship strain, which aligns with the notion that LAT couples can establish the relationship expectations and norms that work for them (Lewin, 2016). Marriage, Family, and Sexuality Family Research Council champions marriage and family as the foundational cornerstone of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society. In particular, the ways in which changes in spousal health may shape one’s own outcomes are poorly understood (Cooney & Dunne, 2001; Zhang et al., 2016). Current Research. Non-coresidential partnerships, including dating and living apart together (LAT) relationships, are arguably more common than is cohabitation in later life but they remain understudied (Brown & Shinohara, 2013; Connidis, Borell, & Karlsson, 2017; Lewin, 2016). Calculations by the authors. This share will grow in the coming years as more boomers experience marital dissolution through either gray divorce or widowhood and do not subsequently remarry. Over 80% of remarrieds are White, compared to just over three-quarters of cohabitors and 70% of unpartnereds. Widowhood fell slightly among men from 7.5% in 1990 to 5.7% in 2015. Only 1% of older men and just 0.4% of older women were cohabiting, levels that are remarkably lower than in the United States. Older adults are taking advantage of the flexibility afforded by unmarried partnerships, including cohabitation (Calasanti & Kiecolt, 2007). Discover librarian-selected research resources on Child Marriage from the Questia online library, including full-text online books, academic journals, magazines, newspapers and more. For cohabiting women, having friends and family close by is associated with a lower likelihood of marrying and a greater chance of breaking up with the partner (Vespa, 2013), which suggests that women with larger support networks may be less committed to their cohabiting partners because they have alternative sources of social support. Given that most cohabiting unions are quite stable and operate as an alternative to marriage in later life, it is possible that older cohabitors enjoy health benefits that are on par with those of older married individuals. Description: The Journal of Marriage and Family (JMF), published by the National Council on Family Relations, is the leading research journal in the family field and has been so for over sixty years.JMF features original research and theory, research interpretation and reviews, and critical discussion concerning all aspects of marriage, other forms of close relationships, and families. Interracial couples are more likely to experience gray divorce than same race couples. They are also driving the gray divorce revolution, which is largely a reverberation of the initial run-up in divorce decades ago. In 1990, 8.1% of men and 10.1% of women were divorced. An early cross-sectional study indicated that the levels of depressive symptoms did not differ for women by union type but that married men reported fewer symptoms, on average, than did cohabiting men. Adult children’s relationships with married parents, divorced parents, and stepparents: Biology, marriage, or residence? A., Borell, K., & Karlsson, S. G. (, Dupre, M. E., Beck, A. N., & Meadows, S. O. Unmarried boomers are disadvantaged compared with married boomers. Still, a narrow majority sees societal benefits in marriage. But empirical research reveals they are not associated with a couple’s risk of gray divorce. Cohabitors cannot count on their partner like married spouses do (Noël-Miller, 2011). Marital trajectories and mortality among US adults, Aging and sexual orientation: A 25-year review of the literature, Disparities in health and disability among older adults in same-sex cohabiting relationships. Still, marital disruption itself is associated positively with cardiovascular disease (Zhang & Hayward, 2006). Department of Sociology, Bowling Green State University. Cohabitors typically report the weakest social ties to friends and family (Brown et al., 2006). Here, we reviewed recent research that focuses on marriage, cohabitation, and divorce in later life. marriage in identifying the requirements of traditional marriage.8 Specifically, in describing traditional marriage it has been noted that “[e]ven if reality has always been diffuse, contradictory, and complex, until a generation ago there was a social consensus as to what marriage meant. On the other hand, individuals who are vulnerable due to financial hardship or poor health could be devastated by a gray divorce. LAT relationships, which can be conceptualized as long-term dating relationships that are unlikely to eventuate in either cohabitation or marriage, offer unprecedented flexibility and autonomy by allowing couples to define their obligations and responsibilities to one another within a framework of a high commitment relationship (Benson & Coleman, 2016; Connidis et al., 2017; Duncan & Phillips, 2011; Upton-Davis, 2012). Table 2 provides a portrait of the previously married, differentiating among individuals aged 50 years and older who are cohabiting, remarried, or unpartnered using the 2015 American Community Survey. This compilation of articles includes topics such as: Wendy Manning, co-director of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University, says delaying marriage is … It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts. … On the one hand, older adults who wanted to get divorced, are financially secure, and in good health may experience few or no downsides to calling it quits. Scott Bidstrup in his essay “Gay Marriage: The Arguments and the Motives” summarizes the most common claims against marriage, such as: 1. For example, a recent study by Karraker and Latham (2015) suggests that healthy midlife married couples are at risk of gray divorce with the onset of wife’s heart problems, but not when the husband’s health declines. Navigating health declines without the support and care of a spouse may pose significant challenges to gray divorced individuals, diminishing their well-being. As depicted in Figure 1, the number of cohabitors aged 50 years and older has more than quadrupled since 2000, rising from roughly 951,000 to over 4 million in 2016. Bulcroft and Bulcroft’s (1991) conclusion more than a quarter century ago that explanations for dating in young adulthood do not readily apply to older adult dating remains true and extends to other relationship types such as cohabitation. In 2004, individuals aged 50 and older living in ten European countries were typically in partnered relationships. View Article Google Scholar 21. Marriage is traditionally a heterosex… Likewise, the shares of never-married and cohabiting older adults have risen over the past 25 years. This study was presented at a medical conference, so the results should be considered preliminary. The scope of the gray divorce revolution will intensify in the coming years with the aging of the population. No gender differences are evident on this question among married adults. In 2015, figures stood at 14.3% for men and 18.1% for women. Whereas cohabitation among young adults tends to operate as a prelude to marriage or an alternative to singlehood, culminating in either marriage or separation within a year or two of its inception, cohabitation among older adults functions as a long-term alternative to marriage (King & Scott, 2005). Discover librarian-selected research resources on Marriage from the Questia online library, including full-text online books, academic journals, magazines, newspapers and more. Later life couplehood is no longer confined to the boundaries of marriage. Men may find cohabitation desirable because it gives them access to a resident partner who provides social support (de Jong Gierveld, 2002). The varied family experiences characterizing the later life course demonstrate the importance of moving beyond marital status to capture additional dimensions of the marital biography, including transitions, timing, duration, and sequencing. Child marriage continues to be highly prevalent in Africa, where almost 40% of girls are married before age 18 [].Research has consistently documented the adverse economic, social, demographic and reproductive health consequences of child marriage for child brides, their families and their communities [1,2,3,4,5,6,7].Marriage can lead to unique changes in the life of an adolescent girl … A growing share does not seem to feel compelled to remain coupled. When one’s marriage fails to live up this standard, divorce is viewed as an acceptable solution.
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