Based on a US sample of 2,000 premarital couples, they were classified into one of four couple types. Compared to non-cohabiting couples, cohabiting couples comprised a smaller percentage in the most successful couple type (Vitalised) and a significantly larger percentage in the most problematic couple type (Conflicted).
Overview of the Cohabitation Study:
This study compared 1,000 cohabiting couples and 1,000 non-cohabiting couples who took PREPARE. The premarital couples were classified into one of four couple types (from most to least happy): Vitalised, Harmonious, Traditional and Conflicted.
There was significantly more non-cohabiting couples (57.2%) that were Vitalised compared to the cohabiting couples (45.7%). Longitudinal studies have demonstrated that Vitalised couples are happier and have the lowest divorce rate (Fowers, Montel and Olson, 1996).
As expected, there were significantly more Traditional couples that were not cohabiting (28.6%) than were cohabiting (18.7%). Longitudinal studies demonstrate that Traditional couples have only a 16% separation and divorce rate after 3 years, compared with a 25% for Harmonious and 53% for Conflicted couple types.
There were significantly more Conflicted couples in cohabiting couples (16.4%) than the non-cohabiting couples (7.2%). Previous longitudinal studies have demonstrated that only 17% of the Conflicted couple type are happy 3 years after marriage. Further, over half (53 %) of the Conflicted couples are separated or divorced after three years.
In summary, this study demonstrates that cohabiting couples have a much higher risk of divorce than non-cohabiting couples. Cohabiting couples have a smaller percentage of the more successful couple types (Vitalized and Traditional) and a larger percentage in the most problematic couple type (Conflicted).
Marriage Education and Counselling Can Help Cohabiting Couples Improve Their Success Rate:
The good news is that cohabiting couples can improve their type of couple relationship and, thereby, increase their chances of a successful marriage. A study by Luke Knutson and David Olson (2003) on the impact of the PREPARE Program for premarital couples demonstrated that couples can improve their couple type (move one to two types better) by taking the PREPARE Couple inventory and receiving 6-8 hours of feedback and premarital education.
- David H. Olson, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota and President of Life Innovations. Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Peter J. Larson, Ph.D. is Vice President of Life Innovations, Inc
- Fowers, Montel and Olson, 1996
P/E Checkup has been newly released this year, January 2017, as an addition to the variety of versions of our assessment. P/E Checkup is a less intensive subset of the PREPARE/ENRICH assessment and has a more user-friendly report structure, similar to Couple Checkup.
P/E Checkup is a shorter version of the full PREPARE/ENRICH assessment with a one-report format, which both the facilitator and couple can view. It will take an individual about 20-30 minutes to complete the P/E Checkup version of the assessment, compared to the 30-45 minutes to take the full PREPARE/ENRICH assessment. Couples are still encouraged to individually answer each question with the first response that comes to mind, just as they are encouraged to do when taking PREPARE/ENRICH.