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He Says, She Says': Gender and Cohabitation

Publication Abstract

Huang, Penelope M., Pamela Smock, Cara Bergstrom-Lynch, and Wendy Manning. 2011. "He Says, She Says': Gender and Cohabitation." Journal of Family Issues, 32(7): 876–905.

Cohabitation has become the modal path to marriage in the United States. However, little is known about what cohabitation means to young adults today. Drawing on data from 18 focus groups (N = 138) and 54 in-depth interviews with young adults, this exploratory study investigates motivations to cohabit and examines potential gender differences in those motivations and the meanings attached to them. The authors find that primary motives to cohabit include spending time together, sharing expenses, and evaluating compatibility. Strong gender differences emerge in how respondents discuss these themes and how they characterize the drawbacks of cohabitation, with men more concerned about loss of freedom and women with delays in marriage. Overall, the findings of this study suggest that gendered cultural norms governing intimate relationships extend to cohabiting unions and point to gender differences in the perceived role of cohabitation in union formation processes.

PMCID: PMC3106995. (Pub Med Central)

Country of focus: United States.

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