Young adults need to consider all aspects of cohabitation

As a young undergraduate, I am concerned about a recent report by the National University of Singapore's Centre for Family and Population Research (Marriage, families under stress as norms change; May 17).

I can understand how to young people, cohabitation may sound like a good way of testing romantic relationships before making a major life commitment.

However, there is research that shows otherwise. Most studies have consistently linked cohabitation with higher divorce rates and marital instability.

For instance, a Journal of Marriage and Family study found that couples who cohabit first before marriage had a 65 per cent higher risk of divorce.

The instability of cohabitation has been attributed to various reasons, including relational insecurity and ambiguity. Cohabiting couples can take these unhealthy relationship dynamics into their marriage, which would not be beneficial to their relationship.

Furthermore, Dr Jan Stets, a leading expert on family violence, found that "aggression is at least twice as common" among cohabiting couples compared with married ones. This is even after taking into account factors such as education, occupation and income.

The risks of cohabitation are worrying to me.

It remains to be seen if cohabiting first would indeed lead to marriage. But even if it does, what is the quality and stability of these marriages?

As a young adult who aspires to have a strong and healthy marriage with my future husband, I wonder if my peers and I have considered the risks involved.

When making national policy suggestions, policymakers need to consider a more long-term and holistic way of increasing marriage rates. Do we see marriage as a committed union, or a casual contract? While not every marriage may live up to the ideal of a committed union, we should aspire towards it as a society.

Having a more holistic picture of cohabitation and its effects would help young adults like myself to make wiser choices in our lives.

He Xiu Hui (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2018, with the headline 'Young adults need to consider all aspects of cohabitation'. Print Edition | Subscribe