Qualitative Reports of Problems in Cohabiting Relationships: Comparisons to Married and Dating Relationships

Annie C. Hsueh, Kristen Rahbar Morrison, Brian D. Doss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Although previous research has demonstrated increased relationship distress and separation for cohabiting couples, little is known about specific problems cohabiting individuals encounter in comparison to dating and married individuals. This study examines open-ended reports of 1,252 individuals' (220 dating, 231 cohabiting, and 801 married) relationship concerns using a detailed, reliable coding system. The top 5 areas considered most problematic by cohabiting individuals were problems in specific areas of their current relationship, individual problems, general communication, arguments, and emotional affection-distance. Dating and cohabiting individuals reported similar frequencies of global problems except that cohabiting individuals reported more problems with arguments and fewer problems with relationship commitment. Married and cohabiting individuals had more differences in their reports of relationship concerns; results suggested that cohabiting relationships tended to be both more vibrant and more volatile than marital relationships. However, most differences between relationship types were no longer significant after controlling for individuals' relationship and demographic characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-246
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • cohabitation
  • dating
  • marriage
  • problems
  • relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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