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Shacking up means splitting up, especially among the low-educated
Cohabiting leads couples to divorce quicker. And this is especially true when couples have low education. - photo by Herb Scribner
Living with your significant other before marriage isnt a good idea for couples who want to stay together for the long term. A new study from the Center for Family and Demographic Research at Bowling Green State University found that cohabitation before marriage often causes married couples to separate.

Education plays a role, too. One of the major findings in the study is that couples without a college degree who cohabited before marriage are the most likely to separate five years after marriage.

Couples with less than a high school degree have a 42 percent chance of separating five years down the road, whereas couples who have a high school diploma or GED have a 54 percent chance. This has been the case since the 1980s.

Meanwhile, couples who have a college degree or more have a 34 percent likelihood of separating five years down the road after cohabiting. Though less than other education levels, this is still an increase from the 1980s, when those couples had a 29 percent chance of separating.

Premarital cohabitation has increased overall since the 1980s. Lois Collins of Deseret News National reported in January that cohabiting has nearly doubled in the last 25 years and has been most popular among older and more educated Americans, Collins reported.

"We thought maybe the number had plateaued," Wendy D. Manning, co-director of the National Center for Family and Marriage, told Collins, "but it continues to rise. Now about two-thirds have ever cohabited. That's really striking."

Separation and divorce, which can be caused by cohabitation, has taken a toll on American families, too. Divorce has been linked to cause chronic stress among adults, which can lead to heart attacks, high blood pressure and cardiovasular disease, as I wrote earlier this month.

Divorce has also been linked to hurting children and adolescents emotionally. Carl E. Pickhardt, Ph.D., of Psychology Today wrote that children's lives are forever changed by divorce as it presents new challenges that children have to face every day.

"Divorce introduces a massive change into the life of a boy or girl no matter what the age," Pickhardt wrote for Psychology Today. "Witnessing loss of love between parents, having parents break their marriage commitment, adjusting to going back and forth between two different households, and the daily absence of one parent while living with the other, all create a challenging new family circumstance in which to live. In the personal history of the boy or girl, parental divorce is a watershed event. Life that follows is significantly changed from how life was before."
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