Cohabitation Versus Traditional Marriages

Subject: Family, Life & Experiences
Pages: 5
Words: 1129
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: Undergraduate


The rise in the behavior of cohabitation has seen the rate of marriage, especially among the African Americans decline over the years. According to Hattery and Smith (2007), “African American women are twice as likely to have never been married (41.9%) than their white counterparts” (p. 44). The issue of disproportionate marriage among African American women emerged in 1970s, when cohabitation increased more than the traditional marriage. Fundamentally, cohabitation entails living together as husband and wife in a sexual relationship before a formal marriage. Cohabitation contrasts the traditional marriage since couples marry legally before entering into a sexual relationship and living together. Most couples cohabit to test their compatibility with the assumption that they will improve the chances of having a happy marriage. Comparative analysis of cohabitation and traditional marriage shows that they have varied advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, this thesis examines factors that contribute to decline of traditional marriages and holds that traditional marriage is better than cohabitation because it creates stable families, restricts sex, and offers paternal care to children.

Traditional Marriages among African Americans

Changing demographics contribute to the occurrence of cohabitation. The African American men encounter several challenges, which impact their ability to provide for their families. The majority of African Americans lack good employment opportunities, which is attributable to lack of proper education. Most African American men attend poorly equipped schools in the primary and secondary levels. A significant number of African Americans are unable to proceed and pursue higher education, and thus making engage in crime. The number of incarcerated African American men has increased over the past years with about 25% to 33% of men in the community serving a sentence (Hattery & Smith, 2007). Hence, the socioeconomic conditions greatly affect their ability to nurture healthy relationships and families.

Economic conditions of African American have taken the gender perspective. Disproportionate economic status exists between men and women having the ages of 20-49 years (Sherif-Trask & Hamon, 2007). This age bracket is the ideal age for women to get married. The labor market has created more favorable conditions for the African American women as compared to men. African American men experience racial discrimination when it comes to employment opportunities and salary scale (Hattery & Smith, 2007). Gender favoritism has made African American women rise in ranks and earn more money than African American men. Thus, African American men become ineligible marriage partners because they cannot support their families economically.

Gender role ideology has contributed to the decline in traditional marriages among African Americans because the societal norms regard men as sole breadwinners in the family and disregard women. The gender ideology continues to have an impact on marriage, especially among African Americans. The labor market favors African American women, which means that they earn higher wages than the African American men in the same age bracket do. Essentially, African American women are highly educated and earn more salaries than their men counterparts among the poor and the middle class couples (Hattery & Smith, 2007). The issue is that in most cases, both the African American women and men accept the gender ideology, and therefore, view this as a problematic issue. According to Hattery and Smith (2007), a woman is less likely to get married if she attains financial superiority over her male counterparts. This means that the couples, who are already married, are likely to end up in divorce owing to their economic status.

Advantages of a Traditional marriage

Traditional marriage offers economic stability to the family. Throughout history and even today, marriage has served as a social unit, which creates social networks, social support, source of wealth, and political capital. Married couples are able to put their assets together and are able to plan, invest, and save for their families. According to Hattery and Smith (2007), as families provide political capital and social networks, “they also provide access to enormous amounts of money or financial capital that is necessary to successfully attain state and federal elected positions” (p. 43). Traditional marriage creates social networks, which open doors for several men and women to enter into the arena of politics.

Another advantage of marriage is that it restricts sexual relations. These restrictions, however, vary from one religion or culture to another. Traditional families are social units that prevent sexual relations among minors or among relatives. Sexual restrictions among minors help protect children from pedophiles. However, the minority age threshold varies from one state to another, but it is insignificant. Moreover, it is also important to note that some cultures allow for marriage between first cousins. Restricted sexual relations also help in the establishment of a child paternity and family lineages.

Traditional marriage is important because it aids in the protection of children and the establishment of their paternity within a recognizable social unit. Child rearing is quite expensive because it requires investment in terms of time and finances. A man can easily provide for children born within a marriage because he can sacrifice by planning for their future (Hattery & Smith, 2007). The responsibility of supporting and caring for a child belongs to the parents. Child neglect is an offense that is punishable by law in the United States. Children born within a marriage are guaranteed of protection, provision, and support from the parents. Mothers are also assured of a father’s support and provision for the family. Since marriage is a legal entity, each partner is assured of legal protection in case of divorce or death.

Disadvantages of Traditional Marriages

In traditional marriage, the disadvantage is that in case of divorce, each partner is entitled to family assets, irrespective of the individual contribution. The family assets include assets that each brought into the marriage and acquired during and after the marriage. A spouse, who made a greater contribution than the other in accumulating family assets incur huge losses. Another disadvantage is that traditional marriage is expensive and rigorous to establish because it entails a formal process, unlike cohabitation.


The gender ideology that a man should be superior in financial status acts as a barrier to stable marriages. African American men and women should accept present day realities and embrace traditional marriage as a timeless social institution in society. Issues of racial discrimination in the labor market, poor education, incarceration, and unemployment should be addressed. Improvement of socioeconomic conditions of African Americans will increase the number of marriageable men among African Americans. Married couples have inheritance and legal rights that most cohabiting couples do not. Moreover, marriage offers stable social relationships to both adults and children, and therefore, society should promote traditional marriage. Hence, traditional marriage is an indispensable social institution that plays a vital role in bringing up a healthy and confident child as both parents aid in the parenting process.


Hattery, J., & Smith, W. (2007) African American Families. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Sherif-Trask, B., & Hamon, R. (2007). Cultural diversity and families: Expanding perspectives. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.