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To Marry or Not: That is the Question (Cohabitation vs. Marriage ...

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To Marry or Not: That is the Question

    (Cohabitation vs. Marriage)

     Chen Xiaoling

     Class 9, Grade 3, No.911

    This paper is submitted for the partial

    Fulfillment of the course

    Contemporary British Culture and Society

    Faculty of English Language and Culture

     December, 2005

    To Marry or Not: That is the Question

    (Cohabitation vs. Marriage)

    Thesis: While marriage has declined and cohabitation has increased, cohabitation is not a good

    alternative to marriage.

    Outline:

    ?. A brief introduction to the theme of this paper: Marriage over Cohabitation

    ?. The current situation of marriage and cohabitation

    A. The declining marriage and skyrocketing cohabitation in UK

     1. Marriage on the rocks in Britain with more people set to cohabitate

    2. Government statistics

    B. The similar situation in China

    1. Dropping marriage rate with increasing divorce tare (statistics)

    2. More cohabitation cases

    ?. Why cohabitation becoming popular

    A. Peoples attitude to marriage and cohabitation in both UK and China

    1. Conclusions&statistics from national social survey B. Reasons for cohabitation

     1. A good way to 'test out' the relationship

     2. Increased intimacy

    3. Less complicated dissolution

    4. Trial marriage

    ?. Facts behind Cohabitation: Marriage over Cohabitation

    A. Cohabitation provides far less benefits than Marriage

    B. Evidences of a research

    ?. Conclusion

    To Marry or Not: That is the Question

    (Cohabitation vs. Marriage)

    In his famous poetry “Marriage”, American writer Gregory Corso has ever written,

    Should I get married? Should I be good? Astound the girl next door with my velvet suit and

    1faustus hood? In fact, this question is still troubling persistently British young adults today.

    Traditionally, marriage has had a special status in British law and society. Marriage developed as a way to provide stability for families and for all of society. However, in stead of getting married, there is a main trend that more and more people choose to cohabitate. As marriage has declined and cohabitation has increased, there are some reasons to think that the rise in cohabitation has caused the decline in marriage. This paper will focus on the current situations of marriage and cohabitation in Britain, the underlying reasons for this cohabitation trend and the harmful effects it brings.

    ; The Current Situation of Marriage and Cohabitation---Declining

    Marriage & Skyrocketing Cohabitation

    Marriage is on the rocks in Britain, with the proportion of unmarried people set to exceed that of married people within 25 years as more men and women opt to live together without

    2constraints, according to government statistics published in Sep. 2005.

     It is reported that in 2001, there were 286,100 weddings in the UK 6.5 per cent fewer than

    in 2000. The number of first marriages peaked in 1970 at almost 390,000, and has since fallen to

    3less than half this number 171,900 in 2001.

     1 by Gregory Corso 1960, P29 2 http://www.statistics.gov.uk/ 3 http://www.britain.tv/community_british_marriage_decline.shtml

    The proportion of married men is expected to fall from 53 percent in 2003 to 42 percent in 2031, while the percentage of married women will decline from 50 percent to 40 percent, Britain's Office for National Statistics predicted in 2005.

    The "Population Trends" report predicted on the other hand that the number of unmarried couples living together will almost double from two million in 2003 to 3.8 million in 2031.

    The projections are based on the recent steep fall in marriage rates for people aged under 30. As the older generation dies, a new generation of people who prefer cohabitation to marriage will take their place.

     Situation in China:

    While China saw 1.613 million couples divorced in 2004 while 8.341 million couples registered to marry that year, according to statistics of the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Compared

    4with the statistics of 2003, 282,000 more couples divorced with an increase rate of 21.2 percent.

    China’s marriage rate peaked in 1981 at about 2.08%, and has dropped since then.

    People prefer to stay single and tend to marry later in life. Much alike the situation in Britain, there is also an increasing number of couples choose to cohabitate in China especial in the urban area. Although the rate is till lower than that of Western countries, it is at least 20 times greater than two decades ago and ranks Shanghai top in China's Cohabitation statistics.

    A decrease in the number of marriages and an increase in cohabitation both have come in the wake of a large increase in divorce in the last thirty years both in UK and China.

; Why Cohabitation Becomes Popular?

    1. Attitude towards Marriage and Cohabitation

     4 http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2005-03/01/content_420456.htm

    Just a generation or two ago, it was scandalous for an unmarried man and woman to live together. Today, most couples who marry live together first -- "shacking up" has gone mainstream. Cohabitation without marriage in Britain is expected to double by 2021. The British Social Attitudes Survey 2000 reveals that this is now widely accepted in Britain both as a partnering and parenting structure, and regardless of whether it is undertaken as a prelude or alternative to marriage.

    ? 59% of the British population agrees that "even though it might not work out for some people, marriage is still the best kind of relationship.

    ? 69% agree that "too many people just drift into marriage without really thinking about it." ? 9% agree that "there is no point getting married - it's only a piece of paper". ? When asked whether they thought it was a good idea for couples who intend to get married to live together first, 56% thought that it was "a good idea".

    5? 67% thought it acceptable for a couple to cohabit, even if they don't intend to marry.

    Not surprisingly, young adults strongly favor cohabitation.

     More than one-third of Christian young adults in Britain say that "cohabitation before marriage is all right" for both themselves and others, according to the results of a survey released May 7 by the Evangelical Alliance in London. The survey shows that 33 percent of Christians between ages 18 and 35 support the idea of couples living together before marriage, compared

    6with 82 percent of non-Christians.

    In China, in the 1980s, cohabitation between unmarried man and woman was a shameful act in people's eyes. Nowadays, however, over 80 percent of the women surveyed adopt an indifferent attitude, thinking it not necessarily to have a "marriage certificate" as long as a couple loves each

    7other. Observing urban China's new wave of platonic cohabitation, in the sense of what used to

     5 Barlow, A., Duncan, S., and Park, A. British Social Attitudes, 18th Report: 2001-2002 Edition. 6 http://news.adventist.org/data/2001/04/0989940775/index.html.en 7 ( 2003-09-21 08:12) (People's Daily)

be called "living in sin”, More and more young people in China have a rational and practical

    approach to cohabitation.

    Cohabitation is not a new trend now.

    2. Reasons for Cohabitation

    It’s obvious that cohabitation has become the enemy to marriage. For today's young adults, the first generation to come of age during the divorce revolution, they find good reasons for living together. A range of reasons are given for cohabiting rather than marrying. The Cohabiters think it a good way to achieve some of the benefits of marriage without the risk of divorce. Couples who live together can share expenses and learn more about each other. They can find out whether their partner has what it takes to be married. If things don't work out, breaking up is easy to do. Cohabiting couples do not have to seek legal or religious permission to dissolve their union.

    To be more specific, there are several aspects of consideration for people choosing cohabitation:

    1. A good way to 'test out' the relationship

    Living together enables the couple to better learn about each other’s habits and

    character and see how we operate together day-to-day.

    2. Increased intimacy

    The couple has more opportunities to share sexual and emotional intimacy without

    getting married.

    3. Less complicated dissolution

    Avoid loss of financial benefits such as alimony, welfare, or pension checks.

    If the relationship doesn’t work out, there is no messy divorce.

    4. Trial marriage

    Many couples consider premarital cohabitation as a kind of trial marriage or test

    8marriage. After cohabitating for a period of time, they’ll get married.

8 http://www.aber.ac.uk/aberonline/uwa1302.html

; Facts behind Cohabitation: Marriage over Cohabitation:

    Cohabitation provides far less benefits than Marriage

    Although cohabitation is now becoming the main trend and is accepted in most social roups in Britain, a careful review of the available social science evidence suggests that living g

    together is not a good way to prepare for a happy life. What's more, it shows that the rise in cohabitation is not a positive family trend. Cohabiting unions tend to weaken the institution of marriage and pose clear dangers for the society. Specifically, the research indicates that:

    1. Living together before marriage increases the risk of divorce. One study found an

    increased risk of 46%.

    2. Living together outside marriage increases the risk of domestic violence for women and

    the risk of physical and sexual abuse for children. One study found that the risk of

    domestic violence for women in cohabiting relationships was double that in married

    relationships; the risk is even greater for child abuse. The chart below shows the bad

    9effect it has on cohabiters children.

9 Berthoud, R. and Gershuny, J., Seven Years in the Lives of British Families, London, p. 40.

    3. Unmarried couples have lower levels of happiness and well-being than married

    10couples.

    We recognize the larger social and cultural trends that make cohabiting relationships attractive to many young adults today. Unmarried cohabitation is not likely to go away. Given this reality, we should hold in mind with this available evidence that marriage is still the only acceptable way to form a relationship or a family.

Conclusion

    It is widely believed that the institution of marriage enhances communal wellbeing, and what’s more, marriage is the highest form of fellowship, affording a rocklike foundation on which

    11all that is best in the life of the nation is built.Although people’s attitudes towards marriage are

    changing and more and more people tend to choose to cohabitate, by all of the empirical evidence at our disposal, not to mention the wisdom of the ages, the institution of marriage remains a cornerstone of a successful society. Given the truth that cohabitation becomes the main trend in both Britain and China, people should give deeper consideration about whether cohabitation is really a good alternative to marriage and try to find a better way to solve the problems cohabitation has brought.

     10 http://marriage.rutgers.edu/ 11 Elizabeth,(1900-2002)wife of King George VI and mother of Queen Elizabeth II,P21

    References

1. Xiao Huiyun,2003,Contemporary British Culture and Society, Shanghai Foreign

    Language Education Publishing Company, Shanghai

    2. Berthoud, R. and Gershuny, J., editors, Seven Years in the Lives of British

    Families, London: The Policy Press, 2000, p. 40.

    3. Barlow, A., Duncan, S., James, G. and Park, A. (2001) Just a piece of paper?

    Marriage and cohabitation. In British Social Attitudes: Public policy, social ties.

    The 18th Report: 2001-2002 Edition. (London: Sage.)

    4. Haskey, J., 1995, 'Trends in marriage and cohabitation: The decline in marriage

    and the changing pattern of living in partnerships', Population Trends, Vol. 80, pp.

    421-29.

    5. by Gregory Corso 1960, P29 6. http://www.marriage.rutgers.edu

    7. http://www.statistics.gov.uk

    8. http://www.britain.tv/community_british_marriage_decline.shtml 9. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn

    10. http://www.peoplesdaily.com

    11. http://www.aber.ac.uk/aberonline/uwa1302.html

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