Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

Chalandra M. Bryant


This study applied a developmental approach to the study of cohabitation. Until now, prospectively assessed family and peer behavioral influences had not been studied in relation to young adults' decisions to cohabit or marry as a first union. The present study had three goals. The first and primary purpose of this study was to prospectively examine behaviors and beliefs experienced in the family of origin and with peers that may influence the occurrence of cohabitation rather than marriage as a first union. The second purpose was to examine the influence of these factors on the unconventional relationship beliefs of the youth, and the resulting effect of these beliefs on the occurrence of cohabitation. The third purpose of this study was to assess the association between selecting premarital cohabitation over marriage as a first union and current relationship success. For exploratory purposes, this association was assessed while controlling for earlier experiences with the family of origin and peers, as well as unconventional relationship beliefs. Results indicated that (a) the greater the adolescents' association with deviant peers, (b) the lower the parental religious beliefs and values, (c) the lower the parents' high warmth and low hostility toward each other, and (d) the lower the observed nurturant and involved parenting, then the greater the odds that the young adults would choose to cohabit rather than marry as a first union. In addition, findings suggested that the association between the likelihood of choosing cohabitation as a first union and parents' behaviors or cognitions (their warmth and hostility toward each other and their religious beliefs and values) may be mediated by the young adults' unconventional beliefs. Cohabitation was negatively associated with relationship success. This association was also assessed while controlling for previous family and peer experiences, unconventional relationship beliefs, gender, and neuroticism. The negative association between cohabitation and relationship success remained even after controlling for these variables. Overall, the results of the present study provide support for the usefulness of a developmental approach for studying cohabitation and first union decisions.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Jennifer Marie Meehan Brennom



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

91 pages