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Dimensions of Cohabiting Relationships in Emerging Adulthood: Implications for Psychological Well-Being

Sun, August 11, 10:30 to 11:30am, Sheraton New York, Floor: Third Floor, New York Ballroom West


Research has indicated conflicting associations between romantic relationships and well-being at different periods across the life course- particularly between adolescence and adulthood. Findings have also been generally inconsistent on the differences between men and women on the benefits and detriments of different union statuses (dating, cohabitation, marriage) for well-being. In this thesis, I address these disparities by examining the stage between adolescence and adulthood- emerging adulthood- and the union status of cohabitation, often considered as a precursor to marriage. Specifically, I analyze relationship quality and communication dynamics of cohabiting relationships in emerging adulthood and their associations for psychological well-being outcomes of depression and anxiety- as well as potential gender differences for these outcomes. Drawing on data from the Toledo Adolescent Relationships Study (TARS), I find that certain dynamics of cohabiting relationships are associated with depression and anxiety.

Specifically, relationship satisfaction was not associated with either indicators of distress, but both verbal conflict and communication awkwardness were associated with depressive symptoms and communication awkwardness was associated with anxiety. Commitment items central to cohabiting unions, including having cohabited previously, having definite marriage plans, and the presence of shared children, were not significantly associated with either distress indicator. Gender mostly did not matter for the association between cohabiting partnerships and distress. The only exception to this occurs in the relationship between verbal conflict and anxiety, where women reported associations between verbal conflict and anxiousness.