Marriage and cohabiting relationships: Is there a difference?

Mrs Nicole Arthur (). Marriage and cohabiting relationships: Is there a difference? Professional Doctorate, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Mrs Nicole Arthur
Thesis Title Marriage and cohabiting relationships: Is there a difference?
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Thesis type Professional Doctorate
Supervisor Professor Christina Lee
Total pages 96
Total black and white pages 96
Abstract/Summary Abstract Social ties are integral to health and well-being, with marital relationship status being one of the most important predictors of health and well-being. Although contemporary research usually treats cohabiting relationships as equivalent to marriage, research suggests that significant differences in health and well-being may exist between married and cohabiting individuals. Because the majority of this research is cross-sectional, however, it is not clear whether pre-existing differences lead individuals to select marriage or cohabitation, or whether the differences arise from the nature of the relationships. Additionally, evidence suggests that differences exist between men and women in the health and well-being correlates of various relationship states. These findings are important at both methodological and clinical levels. If these two groups are meaningfully distinct then it is important that they are treated separately in research. Secondly, if cohabiting relationships are different from marriages, or if different individuals move into them, this has relevance for both couple and individual therapy and potentially in the prevention of relationship breakdown. The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH) provides an opportunity to examine marriage and cohabitation longitudinally within a national sample of women. Women who were single at Survey 2 (N = 3868, aged 22-27) were divided into three groups – those who would still be single at Survey 3, three years later, those who would be married, and those who would be in cohabiting relationships. Firstly, the study explores pre-existing differences at Survey 2, when all women were single, in sociodemographic, physical health, health behaviours and psychological variables. Secondly, it explores whether differences exist on these same variables at Survey 3, after the transition, and thirdly it explores whether post-transition differences can be explained by pre-existing differences between the groups of women. Using a selection of variables assessing sociodemographic status, health behaviours, physical health, and mental health, results suggest that there are both pre-existing differences between these three groups of women and differences that are apparent after the transition. Statistical adjustment for pre-existing differences attenuates, but does not completely remove, the post-transition differences. These findings suggest that both selection and social integration processes may be influential in determining women’s relationship status and health and well-being. These results have implications at both a methodological and clinical level. The findings would suggest that women who go on to cohabit are a meaningfully distinct group of individuals from those who marry, and thus need to be treated as a separate population in future research. Secondly, in terms of clinical practice, increased recognition of and understanding that pre-existing differences between women with different relationship status as well as differences in social interaction processes within the relationship environments may impact on the efficacy of individual and couple relationship therapy should be an important consideration in the delivery and structuring of an efficacious treatment program.
Keyword marrriage, cohabiting, health impacts, women
social control theory, selection theory
Additional Notes page 34 landscape Figure 1. A diagrammatic representation of selection of the final sample groups of women for analysis

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Created: Thu, 05 Feb 2009, 08:38:08 EST by Mrs Nicole Arthur