Commitment in married and unmarried cohabitation

Robert A. Lewis, Graham B. Spanier, Virginia L.Storm Atkinson, Charlotte F. Lehecka

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In-depth interviews were conducted with 61 unmarried, cohabiting individuals matched by gender, social class, and length of acquaintence with 61 noncohabiting, engaged persons and 61 cohabiting married persons. The unmarried cohabiters were significantly less committed to marriage than were the engaged and the married respondents. Nevertheless, there were no significant differences between the cohabiting and engaged persons in personal (pair) commitment to their partners. Correlational analysis was used to determine the social and interactional correlates of personal commitment for each of the three criterion groups. Some interactional correlates were identical for two of the three groups, a finding which suggests some similarities in the structure of commitment across groups. Some differences were found between the cohabiting, engaged, and married groups. Differences, however, were also found in personal commitment between different kinds of cohabitors, i.e., those who described their relationships as a temporary involvement, a substitute for marriage, and as a preparation for marriage. These latter differences suggest that unmarried cohabiters should no longer be studied nor considered as a homogeneous group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-374
Number of pages8
JournalSociological Focus
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1977

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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