By Peter J. Smith

UNITED STATES, August 1, 2008 ( – Despite increasingly high divorce rates, nearly half of the US public now clings to the belief that pre-marital cohabitation will make divorce less likely according to a recent national poll.

A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of 1,007 adults released for the weekend shows 49 percent believe living together reduces the chances of divorce. 13 percent said cohabitation makes no difference at all on marriage’s success. Only 31 percent held the view that shacking up before marriage increases the risk of future divorce. 7 percent had no opinion.

“If you’re living with someone, you actually get to know somebody more than you would not living with them,” Christopher Sekulich, 37, of Melvindale, Michigan told USA Today.

Living together before marriage has skyrocketed since the 1960s, when Western cultures began to cast off traditional sexual mores; but the same period has seen a correlating upsurge of divorce.

The evidence has prompted a number of studies that have indicated that by trying to avoid divorce by cohabitation, unwed couples seriously compromise their marital success. A 2006 report published in the journal Demography indicated one-half of all cohabiting unions collapse within a year and 90 percent within five years.

“The common view of cohabitation as a steppingstone to marriage needs to be seriously questioned,” commented Daniel Lichter a professor of policy analysis at Cornell University and the study’s lead researcher.

“Instead, serial cohabitation may be an emerging norm as cohabiting unions form and break up,” he said. “If marriage promotion programs hope to target poor cohabiting women, our results seemingly suggest that the likelihood of success is not assured.”

Most respondents also said they had little concern about the effect upon children of living in an unmarried cohabiting household. 47 percent insisted it makes no difference, and 12 percent believed there would be positive benefits.

However, the sentiments match up little with the reality that children suffer the brunt of collapsing marriages, and unmarried cohabitation creates an insecure situation for their development.

A study by the Vanier Institute of Family entitled “Cohabitation and Marriage: How Are They Related?” compiled results from hundreds of research papers that examined the social, emotional and financial effects of cohabitation and marriage on women, men, children and society.

Anne-Marie Ambert, the study’s author, concluded that cohabitation is inherently unstable and carries a high cost on children’s physical and psychological development.

Ambert noted, “Commitment and stability are at the core of children’s needs; yet, in a great proportion of cohabitations, these two requirements are absent.”

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