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J Fam Psychol. 2016 Mar;30(2):233-44. doi: 10.1037/fam0000159. Epub 2015 Oct 19.

Emotional health across the transition to first and second unions among emerging adults.

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  • 1Human Development and Family Science, Department of Human Sciences, The Ohio State University.


The link between romantic relationships and emotional health has been extensively examined and suggests that marriage provides more emotional health benefits than cohabiting or dating relationships. However, the contemporary context of intimate relationships has changed and these associations warrant reexamination among emerging adults in the 2000s. We examined the change in emotional health across the entrance into first and second unions, including cohabiting unions, direct marriage (marriage without premarital cohabitation), and marriage preceded by cohabitation. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997, a nationally representative panel study of youth born between 1980 and 1984 in the United States, pooled fixed-effects regression models indicated that entrance into first cohabiting unions and direct marriages, and all second unions, were significantly associated with reduced emotional distress. Gender differences were found for first unions only; for men, only direct marriage was associated with an emotional health benefit, while both direct marriage and cohabitation benefited women's emotional health. (PsycINFO Database Record

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