Cohabitation Study

Remember that Bon Jovi song from the late 80s, “Living in Sin?”

Well, I’m guessing half of you do.

It’s about “love” justifying living together as a married couple, without a marriage covenant.

The song shouts, “I call it love, they call it living in sin!”

Remember? Rock ballad, black and white video?

Anyway, people are still talking about it and more people are living together today than they were back in the 1980s. At LifeWay Research, we wanted to know more.

In June of 2008 (and September 2007), we conducted related surveys (thankfully, not about Bon Jovi) for a recent book on parenting, The Parent Adventure: Preparing Your Children For a Lifetime With God, by Selma & Rodney Wilson and Scott McConnell.

In our study, we found that 6% of all parents with children under 18 years of age in their home are living with a partner to whom they are not married.

To give this some context, we first determined that 69% of all parents are married and 31% are single. We asked these single parents the following questions:

Which of the following best describes you today?

  1. you are the only adult in your household (18% of all parents; 58% of single parents)
  2. you live with another adult family member (6% of all parents; 21% of single parents)
  3. you live with a room mate with whom you are not involved in a relationship (1% of all parents; 2% of single parents)
  4. you live with a partner with whom you are involved in a relationship” (6% of all parents; 19% of single parents)

The 2008 survey was conducted among a representative sample of 1,077 American adults who have children under 18 years old in their household. A demographically balanced online panel was used for the interviewing and we have 95% confidence that the sampling error for the total sample does not exceed +3.0%.

One other study in which we asked a similar question to determine current living situation was a study conducted in April-May 2007 among young adults ages 18-30 who had attended a Protestant church regularly (twice a month or more) for at least a year in high school.

We asked all respondents:

Please indicate your current living situation.

  1. I live with my parents (20%)
  2. I live with my spouse (44%)
  3. I live with my partner/ significant other (13%)
  4. I live with roomate(s) (11%)
  5. I live alone (9%)
  6. Other (3%)

One of the key findings from this study reported in a story last year was that 70% of these young adults ages 23-30 had stopped attending church regularly for at least a year between ages 18 and 22. When we break out the question above by these “dropouts” compared to those who “stayed in church” during these years, we found a statistically significant difference in the percentage who were currently cohabiting. In short, among young adults who had attended a Protestant church regularly in high school, cohabitation is almost twice as likely among those who stop attending church regularly between ages 18 and 22 compared to those who stay in church.

  • 15% of “dropouts” live with a partner or significant other
  • 8% of those who “stayed in church” live with a partner or significant other

Dropouts = adults ages 18-30 who had attended a Protestant church regularly for at least a year in high school but stopped attending regularly for at least a year between ages 18 and 22.

Stayed in church = adults ages 18-30 who had attended a Protestant church regularly for at least a year in high school and continued attending regularly between ages 18 and 22.

This study was conducted among a representative sample of 1,023 young adults ages 18-30 who had attended a Protestant church regularly (twice a month or more) for at least a year in high school. A demographically balanced online panel was used for the interviewing and we have 95% confidence that the sampling error for the total sample does not exceed +3.1%.

It is probably not a surprise that those who are cohabiting are also more likely to be dropouts, but it does speak to some of the challenges in reaching adults in our culture.

I’m interested in how you deal with people living together? How do you reach them, answer their questions, and minister to them?  

by Ed Stetzer
EdStetzer.com
Ed Stetzer has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches. He has trained pastors and church planters on five continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Ed is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine and Catalyst Monthly, serves on the advisory council of Sermon Central and Christianity Today’s Building Church Leaders, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USA Today and CNN. Ed is Visiting Professor of Research and Missiology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Visiting Research Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and has taught at fifteen other colleges and seminaries. He also serves on the Church Services Team at the International Mission Board. Ed’s primary role is President of LifeWay Research and LifeWay’s Missiologist in Residence.
Used with permission from EdStetzer.com.
Previous articleTHE Cause Is Launched!
Next articleA Treatise on the Roles of the Worship Leader