Cohabiting on the Edge: Living Together Apart

Caitlin Cross-Barnet, Johns Hopkins University
Andrew J. Cherlin, Johns Hopkins University

Though it may have many meanings, cohabitation is generally believed to involve a serious, interdependent relationship. However, just as those who do not cohabit may be engaged in serious relationships, those who cohabit are not necessarily likewise engaged. Among low-income couples, a combination of need and obligation, often accompanied by shared parenting and a previous committed relationship, can create cohabiting relationships in which the cohabitors do not view themselves as a couple. Such couples share living space and may share financial, household, or parenting responsibilities even though they no longer feel any attachment to each other. We term such relationships living together apart, or LTA. These relationships emphasize the bonds that shared parenting creates and may explain some disparate accounts of cohabitation status.

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Presented in Session 88: Beyond Cohabitation: Living Together and Living Apart