Just the facts, ma’am

Just the facts, ma’am

I’ll admit it. While I’m doing the daily crossword puzzle in the Boston Herald, I usually read the Ask Amy advice column on the same page. Sometimes her advice is sound, but usually it’s the same old liberal “consenting adults” baloney foisted on people everywhere. I could answer about half of her questions with the same reply: “Grow up, act your age, keep your pants on, and live up to your commitments (see the first part of this sentence).”

Today’s was a real whopper though. Someone wrote in to take her to task for failing to tell people with out-of-wedlock intimate relationships that the reasons for their problems of infidelity and emotional abuse is the lack of trust and commitment. In other words, your extramarital sexual relationships are so terrible because you’re not married.

Predictably, Amy doesn’t like that one bit and fires back with “studies also show that couples that live together before marriage… stay together at about the same rate as couples that don’t live together before marriage.” Studies? What studies? Unfortunately she doesn’t cite any studies, probably because people who begin a sentence with “studies show” are usually grasping at thin air. (Cf. Patrick Coffin’s “If I were dictator” post)

So what did I do? I went out and found actual studies and, lo and behold, they say the exact opposite of what she claims.

The risk of divorce after living together is 40 to 85% higher than the risk of divorce after not living together. In other words, those who live together before marriage are almost twice as likely to divorce than those who did not live together (Bumpass & Sweet 1995; Hall & Zhao 1995; Bracher, Santow, Morgan & Russell 1993; DeMaris & Rao 1992 and Glen 1990).

And just so you know those names and dates aren’t pulled out of thin air, the above-linked site helpfully provides a full bibliography and even web links.

  • Bumpass, Larry L., R. Kelly Raley and James A. Sweet, “The Changing Character or Stepfamilies: Implications of Cohabitation and Nonmarital Childbearing” NSFH 63, Demography 32(1995):425-36.
    URL: http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/cde/nsfh63ab.htm

  • Hall, David R. and John A. Zhoa, “Cohabitation and Divorce in Canada: Testing the Selectivity Hypothesis,” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 57(1995) 421-427.

  • Bracher, Michael; Santow, Gigi; Morgan, S. Phillip; R. Trussell, James, “Marriage Dissolution in Australia: Models and Explanations.” Population Studies 47 (1993) 403-425.

  • DeMaris, Alfred and K.Vaninadha Rao, “Premarital Cohabitation and Subsequent Marital Stability in the United States: A Reassessment.” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 54(1992) 178-190.

  • Glenn, Norval D, “Quantitative Research on Marital quality in the 1980’s: A Critical Review.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 52 (1990) 818-831.

Not that’s how you support an argument with facts.