By Margarita Nahapetyan
U.S. demographers have finally found out what prevents many young couples in the United States to take the plunge and get married these days. The reason is simple- they fear divorce.
With the share of married individuals at an all-time low in the USA, the new research by Cornell University and the University of Central Oklahoma scientists came to the conclusion that among cohabitating partners, nearly 70 per cent of the study's respondents admitted being very concerned about the social, legal, emotional and financial consequences of a possible divorce.
The authors interviewed 122 cohabiting men and women (61 couples), aged between 18 and 36 years, in and around Columbus, Ohio. All the respondents had been living with their partners for at least a three-month period of time. Based on their levels of education, job status and annual income the participants were classified as either working or middle class. Researchers wanted to find out and understand what young people thought about marriage and, in particular, how marriage differed from cohabitation and if they were or were not hoping to get married someday in the future.
The results revealed that roughly 67 per cent of the interviewees said they were very much worried about breaking up and getting divorced. Most frequently mentioned was a desire to make a correct decision and tie the knot only once, and with an ideal partner. Some saw cohabitation as some sort of a "test-drive" prior to making an ultimate commitment. The majority of the respondents also said that separation or divorce would cause them a lot of emotional pain and social embarrassment. Many expressed concerns about child custody as well as worries about legal and economic problems.
The research found that the rewards of marriage for many cohabiting couples are not worth the risk of a potential breakup. High divorce rates were mentioned by the participants as a caution sign, with some saying that one in two marriages in the United States fails and that is why, because of these odds, they were not rushing to get married and to "fix something that was not broken."
Lower-income women in the study said that they were afraid of being stuck in marriage, which meant more housework for them without any benefits. Couples who were classified as working-class reported viewing marriage as a piece of paper which would make no difference from their existing relationship. They were twice as likely to admit fears and concerns about being caught in a trap of matrimonial unit with no way out once they were relying on their partners' share of income to get by. And as to the participants from the middle-class group, they had more favorable attitude towards marriage and they were also more likely to view cohabiting together as a step toward wedding.
These findings back up those of another survey by the Pew Research Centre which revealed that the 'market share' of marriage in America has fallen from 72 per cent in 1960 to 51 per cent in 2011, the lowest percentage in the history of the United States. With findings based on an analysis of U.S. Census data the research predicted that the share of American individuals who are married will drop below 50 per cent in the nearest few years. And those who do choose to tie the knot are postponing it later than ever, believing that marriage is irrelevant to modern life.
The study, titled "The Specter of Divorce: Views from Working and Middle-Class Cohabitors," is published in the journal Family Relations.