The Prevalence of Violence in Cohabiting Relationships and Its Consequences
One of the major outcomes of increasing pervasivessness of cohabitation is the increasing number of cases of violence in such relationships. Although it has been suggested that the rates of violence are not significantly different between married and cohabiting couples, recent research has found that women who cohabit are more likely to experience violence than those who are married (Sinha, 2005). In addition, children who witness violence in their parents’ relationships are also at increased risk of being victimized themselves (Jaffe, Wolfe, & Wilson, 1990).
There are a number of reasons why violence may be more prevalent in cohabiting than married relationships. First, cohabiting couples tend to be younger and less educated than married couples, and they are more likely to have lower incomes (Bramlett & Mosher, 2002). These factors are all associated with increased risk for violence. In addition, cohabiting couples often have not made a commitment to each other and may not have developed the communication and problem-solving skills that can help prevent conflict from escalating into violence. Finally, because cohabitation is still not as socially acceptable as marriage, couples may feel more isolated and less supported by family and friends, which can also contribute to increased conflict and violence.
2. What is cohabitation?
Cohabitation is defined as two people living together in a sexual relationship without being married (Bramlett & Mosher, 2002). In recent years, cohabitation has become increasingly common in the United States, with an estimated 5.5 million unmarried couples currently living together (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000). Cohabitation is most common among young adults aged 18-24 (41%), although the prevalence of cohabitation increases with age, reaching 11% among adults aged 65 and older (Bramlett & Mosher, 2002).
3. What is violence in cohabiting relationships?
Violence in cohabiting relationships can take many forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and economic abuse (Sinha, 2005). Physical abuse is defined as any form of physical force that causes injury or pain, including hitting, kicking, choking, or using a weapon. Sexual abuse is any form of sexual activity that is forced or coerced by one partner against the other. Emotional abuse includes any form of verbal or nonverbal behavior that threatens or controls the other partner, such as intimidation, name-calling, or put-downs. Economic abuse is any form of financial control or coercion by one partner over the other.
4. How common is violence in cohabiting relationships?
The prevalence of violence in cohabiting relationships is difficult to determine because it often goes unreported. However, estimates from large surveys suggest that between 10% and 20% of women in the United States have experienced some form of intimate partner violence during their lifetime (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). This means that approximately 1 in 10 women have been victims of physical abuse by a current or former cohabiting partner at some point in their lives. The prevalence of other forms of violence (e.g., sexual and emotional abuse) is likely to be even higher because these types of abuse are even less likely to be reported than physical abuse.
5. What are the consequences of violence in cohabiting relationships?
The consequences of violence in cohabiting relationships can be far-reaching and long-lasting. Victims of violence often suffer from physical injuries, including bruises, cuts, broken bones, and internal bleeding. In addition, victims of violence may experience emotional consequences such as fear, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Victims of violence may also have difficulty concentrating at work or school, and they may be more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs.
In addition to the direct effects on victims, violence in cohabiting relationships can also have indirect effects on children who witness the violence. Children who witness violence in their parents’ relationships are more likely to experience emotional and behavioral problems, including anxiety, depression, aggression, and difficulties in school (Jaffe et al., 1990). In addition, children who witness or are victimized by violence in their parents’ relationships are at increased risk for developing problems with alcohol and drugs later in life (Jaffe et al., 1990).
6. How can we prevent violence in cohabiting relationships?
There are a number of things that can be done to prevent violence in cohabiting relationships. First, it is important to promote communication and problem-solving skills among couples. Couples should be encouraged to discuss any disagreements or conflict in a calm and respectful manner. Second, it is important to provide support for couples who are experiencing conflict. Family and friends can offer emotional support and practical help, such as babysitting or transportation. Third, it is important to educate couples about the signs of potential abuse and what to do if they suspect that they or their partner is being abused. Lastly, it is important to provide resources for couples who are experiencing violence, such as crisis hotlines, shelters, and counseling services.
In conclusion, violence in cohabiting relationships is a serious problem with far-reaching consequences. Although the prevalence of violence is difficult to determine, it is estimated that between 10% and 20% of women in the United States have been victimized by a current or former cohabiting partner at some point in their lives. The consequences of violence can be severe and long-lasting, affecting not only the victims but also the witnesses (e.g., children). There are a number of things that can be done to prevent violence in cohabiting relationships, including promoting communication and problem-solving skills among couples and providing support and resources for couples who are experiencing violence.