Tag Archives: Cohabitation

Couple.

Most people tend to mirror their mother’s number of romantic partners

When it comes to romance, it seems we all agree — mother knows best.

Couple.

Image via Pixabay.

A national study found that we often follow our mothers’ relationship patterns. People whose mother had a greater number of partners (be them in a marriage or cohabiting relationship) were more likely to have more partners than their peers. The authors say it’s likely that the personality traits and social skill set mothers pass on to children make them more or less likely to form stable relationships.

Parental guidance

“Our results suggest that mothers may have certain characteristics that make them more or less desirable on the marriage market and better or worse at relationships,” said Claire Kamp Dush, lead author of the study and associate professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University.

“Children inherit and learn those skills and behaviors and may take them into their own relationships.”

Dush says that the study expands on previous findings regarding the link between family dynamics and relationship patterns. For example, a lot of prior research found that children from divorced couples are more likely to divorce themselves — but the current study broadens the picture. “It’s not just divorce now,” Dush explains.

“Many children are seeing their parents divorce, start new cohabiting relationships, and having those end as well,” she said. “All of these relationships can influence children’s outcomes, as we see in this study.”

The study drew on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth Child and Young Adult (NLSY79 CYA), run by the Ohio State’s Center for Human Resource Research. The (7,152) people in the NSL79 CYA survey were the biological children of women in the NLSY79, allowing researchers to analyze long-term relationship patterns and the number of partners over both generations — the surveys included information on marriage, divorce, cohabiting relationships, and their break-ups. Both studies tracked each participant for at least 24 years.

The team reports that a mother’s number of marriages and cohabiting partners both had similar effects on how many partners their children had. One key difference between the two was that older siblings, who were exposed to their mother’s cohabiting relationships for longer, went on to have more partners than younger siblings — who were less exposed to the relationships, the team explains.

But why?

Mother with daughter.

Image via Pixabay.

“You may see cohabitation as an attractive, lower-commitment type of relationship if you’ve seen your mother in such a relationship for a longer time,” Kamp Dush said. “That may lead to more partners since cohabitating relationships are more likely to break-up.”

The paper also treats three theories about why children tend to follow their mothers’ relationship patterns:

When parents break up, the family or household loses one source of income. Economic hardship associated with divorce can lead to poorer child outcomes and a more difficult transition to adulthood. These kids are then more likely to have more unstable relationships as adults. However; while the team did find a relationship between economic instability and one’s number of partners, controlling for economic background didn’t have any significant effect on the mother-child link in the number of partners. This suggests that while money mattered, it wasn’t the main reason why so many people follow the same relationship patterns as their mothers.

The second theory proposes that people simply learn by example. Actually witnessing your mother going through one or more divorces or break-ups leads you to have more partners yourself. Should this be true, older half-siblings who saw their mother going through multiple relationships should be more at risk of engaging with multiple partners — but they’re not, the researchers say. The team didn’t find a statistically greater number of partners for these kids compared to younger siblings who did not experience instability.

“What our results suggest is that mothers may pass on their marriageable characteristics and relationship skills to their children — for better or worse,” Kamp Dush said. “It could be that mothers who have more partners don’t have great relationship skills, or don’t deal with conflict well, or have mental health problems, each of which can undermine relationships and lead to instability.”

“Whatever the exact mechanisms, they may pass these characteristics on to their children, making their children’s relationships less stable.”

The paper “The intergenerational transmission of partnering” has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

From married couples to the hook-up kids, Americans are having less sex across the board

A new survey found that Americans aren’t having as much sex as they used to. Married couples or those who cohabitate had sex 16 fewer times on average between 2010-2014 compared to 2000-2004. Overall, Americans had sex about 9 fewer times per year in 2010-2014 compared to 1995-1999.

Well, presumably the other two are still going strong.
Image credits GanMed64 / Flickr.

Based on data collected from the General Social Survey which has recorded (among other things) the sexual behavior of more than 26,000 American adults since 1989, a team from the San Diego State University found that Americans today just aren’t getting down between the sheets as much as previous generations did.

“These data show a major reversal from previous decades in terms of marriage and sex,” said Jean M. Twenge, the study’s lead author and professor of psychology at San Diego State University.

“In the 1990s, married people had sex more times per year than never-married people, but by the mid-2000s that reversed, with the never-married having more sex.”

Twenge says that the main factor driving sexual habits seems to be the birth cohort (i.e. generation), with those born earlier in the 20th century having had more sex on average compared to their younger peers at the same ages. But it may not be so much an issue of Americans having less sex with their partners, but rather a lack of partners to get frisky with — Twenge’s previous research found that Millennials/Generation Y had fewer sexual partners on average compared to members of the Generation X at the same age.

“Despite their reputation for hooking up, Millennials and the generation after them [iGen or Generation Z] are actually having sex less often than their parents and grandparents did when they were young,” said Twenge.

“That’s partially because fewer iGen’ers and Millennials have steady partners.”

Age is also an important factor. People in their 20s report having sex in excess of 80 times per year, a figure which declines to 60 times per year by age 45, and goes all the way down to 20 times per year by age 65, the team reports. So individuals’ average sexual frequency declines by 3.2% each year after the peak at age 25.

But it’s not only kids failing at attracting the opposite sex, Twnege says. It’s also happening to married couples.

“Older and married people are having sex less often — especially after 2000,” he said.

“In a previous paper, we found that the happiness of adults over age 30 declined between 2000 and 2014. With less sex and less happiness, it’s no wonder that American adults seem deeply dissatisfied these days.”

While the study doesn’t offer any evidence as to why this is happening, Twenge says that it’s not due to excessive workloads — Americans who worked more hours actually had sex more often than their peers. Which my actually explain why they work so hard.

The full paper “Changes in American Adults’ Reported Same-Sex Sexual Experiences and Attitudes” has been published online in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.