Female serial cohabitors – women who have cohabited with more than one man and who often have children of different fathers — have divorce rates roughly 40 percent higher than for women who never cohabited and twice as large as divorce rates for women who cohabited with their husbands only.
According to a study by the Brown University Population and Training Center — “Serial Cohabitation: Implications for Marriage, Divorce, and Public Policy” — most women do not cohabit and only 15 to 20 percent of those who cohabited were involved in multiple cohabitations. The large majority of cohabiting women only cohabit with their husbands.
However, serial cohabitors are overrepresented among economically disadvantaged groups, especially those on welfare. Higher-order or serial cohabitations also are less likely to end in marriage. Even when social, economic, and demographic variables were controlled in a model of divorce, serial cohabitation places women at much greater risk of marital dissolution.
“Playing house,” says lawyer Emily Doskow, may seem like good practice for married life, but it can make living together seem less permanent. “People feel like ‘If it doesn’t work out, we can just step out of this.” Statistics suggest that marriages proceeded by cohabitation enjoy a better chance of success when couples become engaged before moving it.