When the first union comes to an end: is it less distressing if we were cohabiting?

Lara Tavares, Università Bocconi
Arnstein Aassve, Università Bocconi

Using data from a large survey, the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), this paper explores the extent to which marital and cohabiting unions differ with respect to the short-term effects of union dissolution on psychological distress. We compare spouses who divorced or separated with cohabitors whose first union ended and test the hypothesis that spouses experience larger negative effects. The results show that this difference is not statistically significant once the presence of children is controlled for. Having children is found to be a major source of increased psychological distress when one is going through union dissolution. However, it does not explain serious psychological distress, which appears to be associated with internal factors (the personality trait neuroticism) rather than with contextual factors.

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Presented in Session 61: Cohabitation