SOCIOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF COHABITATION
This research examines the phenomenon of cohabitation from a sociological perspective. Cohabitation is defined, and the relationships between cohabitation and a variety of social and demographic factors are reviewed.
Cohabitation is defined as the practice of unmarried heterosexual couples living together in a common residence (Wu, 1995, p. 212). Cohabitation is, among other things, a public acknowledgment of the existence of an intimate sexual relationship between the members of an unmarried heterosexual couple (Thornton, Axinn, & Hill, 1992, pp. 628-651). While cohabitation is not the only type of intimate nonmarital relationship, cohabitation draws attention because it openly challenges religious proscriptions against premarital or extra marital sexual intimacy, and because some people view the nonconformity of cohabitation as a threat to social stability.
The values of most religions represented in the United States encourage marriage and parenthood (Stolzenberg, Blair-Loy, & Waite, 1995, p. 84). The dogmas of these religions "promote the establishment and maintenance of family relationships" (p. 84). Family relationships imply conventional marriage to the members of these religious groups. Intimacy is countenanced by these religions only within the context of a religiously sanctioned marriage. Thus, at a quite basic level, religion in the United States tends to be antipathetic toward cohabitation.
Young married couples are more likely to join religious groups than are young adults who are unmarried (Stolzenberg, Blair-Loy, & Waite, p. 84). Therefore, religious organizations tend to have a vested interest in the promotion of traditional relationships between heterosexual couples. People who attend church frequently are more likely to disapprove of cohabitation than are those people who attend church infrequently or who do not attend church ever (Sweet & Bumpass, 1990, p....