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While the number of children born in cohabiting unions has greatly increased, studies have shown that cohabiting unions are significantly less stable than married unions and that the unions instability is negatively associated with the children’s wellbeing. To support fragile families—to provide more secure and lasting family environment to their children—it is important to better understand how cohabiting parents’ commitment and relational experience affect the union’s stability over time. The focus of this study was to explore how cohabiting mothers’ and fathers’ plans to marry their partners, along with their coparenting experience, are associated with their later relationship status, both that of getting married and continuing in cohabitation 5 years after their child’s birth. Based on commitment models and the Family Systems perspective, it was expected that both parents’ marriage plans would be associated with later relationship status (H1); the associations between marriage plans and later relationship status would be dependent upon parents’ coparenting experience (H2); and the effects of marriage plans would be indirectly associated with later status via coparenting experience (H3). The results from multinomial logistic regression analyses of data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study showed that the marriage plans of mothers, but not those of fathers, at the child’s birth were significantly associated with parents’ marital status—being married—5 years later; also, the difference between the effects of mothers’ and fathers’ marriage plans was statistically significant. In addition, cohabiting mothers’ and fathers’ joint marriage plans were significantly associated with marital status. However, the mothers’ and fathers’ joint marriage plans were not associated with continued cohabitation. The results from testing the second hypothesis showed that the effects of father’s marriage plans were significantly associated with both being married and continued cohabitation when they, as well as their partners, were more satisfied with coparenting. The effects of mothers’ marriage plans were also dependent upon coparenting satisfaction, predicting later continued cohabitation but not being married. From testing the third hypothesis, there was no significant mediating effect of coparenting satisfaction in the associations between marriage plans and later relationship status among either the mothers or the fathers. Clinical and research implications of the findings are discussed.
cohabitation, commitment, coparenting, marriage plans, rellationship stability
Date of Defense
June 13, 2016.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Family and Child Sciences in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Ming Cui, Professor Directing Dissertation; Anne Barrett, University Representative; Lenore McWey, Committee Member; Mallory Lucier-Greer, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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