Older Adult Attitudes toward Cohabitation: Two Decades of Change

Susan L. Brown, Bowling Green State University
Matthew Wright, Bowling Green State University

Using data from the 1994, 2002, and 2012 waves of the General Social Survey, we tracked the attitudes of adults aged 50 and older towards cohabitation. Support for cohabitation accelerated over time with nearly half (46%) of older adults reporting favorable attitudes toward cohabitation in 2012 versus just 20% in 1994. Although support of cohabitation was somewhat higher among young adults, the age gradient diminished tremendously over the period with levels of support comparable among adults ages 30-69 in 2012. The factors associated with cohabitation experience in later life also were linked to supportive attitudes. The likelihood that adults ages 50 and older support cohabitation declines with age. Relative to marrieds, the divorced are more likely to express favorable attitudes toward cohabitation. The broad acceptance of cohabitation among older adults aligns with the rapid growth in later life cohabitation that has occurred in recent decades.

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Presented in Session 88: Attitudes and Expectations in Family Formation