Contrasting adjustment to separation by female former cohabitants and former marrieds

Tigraw Beth Kastenberg, University of Pennsylvania


The relationships in cohabitants between separation adjustment versus age at separation, length of relationship, and description of relationship were studied. Also former cohabitants and former marrieds were compared in regard to separation adjustment and the degree to which their former partners met their expectations. The study surveyed 86 former female cohabitants, contrasting their responses with those collected by Graham Spanier (1977) on 77 formerly married females. These specific variables used to measure adjustment included: self-esteem, acceptance of break-up, positive affect, negative affect, and current life satisfaction. The results failed to show the expected relationships with adjustment within the group of cohabitants. However significant differences between former marrieds and former cohabitants were uncovered. Cohabitants experienced poorer separation adjustment than did their married counterparts by reporting less acceptance of the break-up and more negative affect. The marrieds were more likely to report that their former partners did not live up to their expectations as sexual partners, as leisure time companions, and as someone to talk things over with. Disappointment with one's former partner did not correspond to poorer separation adjustment as hypothesized. On the contrary, it appears that prior satisfaction with one's ex-partner may inhibit separation adjustment. The finding of poorer separation adjustment for the cohabitants is contrary to what the researchers expected. The present study was designed to address specific problems in the existing research. The definition of cohabitation is more stringent, the amount of time allowed for since separation is limited, the sample is not limited to college students (in regard to age range or educational level), and within group relationships of cohabitants were taken into account. Cohabitation, as an alternative mode of courtship, seems to be a complex process. Such involvements, often treated lightly initially, may ultimately cause more inherent emotional complications than anticipated. The effects of dissolution of these relationships call into question the benefits of drifting into such a relationship without careful forethought and planning and a close examination of one's expectations.

Subject Area

Psychology|Social psychology|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Kastenberg, Tigraw Beth, "Contrasting adjustment to separation by female former cohabitants and former marrieds" (1994). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9427553.