The article that I have chosen is called “The Pre-Engagement Cohabitation Effect: A Replication and Extension of Previous Findings.” It is a research report written by Galena K. Rhoades, Scott M. Stanley, and Howard J. Markman. All three authors work in the Center for Marital and Family Studies in the Psychology Department at the University of Denver. Galena Rhoades is a Senior Researcher, while Howard Markman is a Professor of Psychology and the Co-Director of this Center along with Dr. Scott Stanley who is a Research Professor.
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This article follows the typical research paper format. It consists of four main parts: introduction, method, results, and discussion. In the beginning of the article the research problem is clearly stated. The article talks about the issue of cohabiting before the actual engagement and marital dissatisfaction and instability as a result of premarital cohabitation.
The primary goal of the present study is to replicate and develop previous findings; therefore, this article provides information about previous studies done and their findings. The first National Survey of Families was conducted in 1987–1988 and showed that married couples had better relationship quality comparing to individuals who already lived together but did not have plans to marry. That survey covered 2000 people. The second study with 136 couples participating was done in 2003. That research proved that couples who started live together only after engagement or marriage had better marital quality than couples who lived together before the engagement. The research study was done in 2008 to update the results of previous surveys, make them more specific, and find out some new information if possible.
Methods and procedures of current study were clearly described by authors. All information regarding participants is present and includes data about their age, race, gender, education, income, and cohabitation experience. Numbers and percentages are given as well. Procedure part precisely describes how the questionnaire was carried out. Data were collected in the form of a telephone survey. Certain age category and marital status limited participants to those 18 to 34 years old and married 10 years or less. Respondents had to complete 7-10 minute survey.
During the study both qualitative and quantitative data were collected. In the first part of the telephone survey respondents had to answer questions about their age and income which could be expressed in terms of numbers. The second part consisted of questions which aimed to measure the quality of marriage in terms of relationship satisfaction, negative communication, confidence, dedication, friendship, and sexual satisfaction. Questions were composed in the form of statements and participants had to assess in 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree) scale. The way data were collected and analyzed was clearly described in Procedure and Measures sections. I think that making this survey in the form of telephone questioner was reasonable because this strategy works perfectly if the researcher’s goal is to interview a considerable number of random married couples from different places.
Results of the survey were interpreted correctly based on information that was received. Some of the hypothesis proposed before the studies were not supported by the results of the survey. For example, it appeared that “those who cohabited before engagement were not significantly more likely to have ever suggested divorce than those who cohabited after engagement,” which did not correspond to what researchers expected (Rhoades et al., 2009, p. 109).
Even though the results obtained from the current study are in line with previous findings, new information concerning cohabitation effect was retrieved. Previously it was believed that if a person had experience of cohabitation with multiple partners, the chances of divorce would be higher than if a person would marry a partner who was his or her first cohabitant. New study showed that “cohabiting before engagement, even only with one’s future spouse, is associated with lower marital quality and higher divorce potential”.
The research is well done; however, there are some limitations of the study. First of all, the results cannot be interpreted as a template which can be applied to all people. There are always some exceptions and this kind of research cannot cover all possible variants and determines people’s future. Secondly, this survey does not represent American population perfectly. The reason for this is that only people who had telephones and agreed to answer the questions could participate in the survey. Thirdly, some results presented in the article may not represent the real situation since some of the respondent couples can be divorced by this time. Finally, it is really difficult to measure such abstract values as friendship, dedication, and confidence.
I personally find this study really useful because it shows at least some generalized scenario of how things for some particular couples may go. It is possible to predict the future of some couples to some extent. However, to make it more accurate and reliable I would add more concrete questions. For example, the fact whether or not a couple has children is very important because it influences human relationships and may change the situation. For some reason, couples were not asked that question. A short 7 minute survey, to my opinion, will not reveal information about couples’ plans for future, expectations, and some fears regarding their relationships. Therefore, I would suggest to spend more time interviewing couples, since these findings would help to understand the relationship between spouses better and maybe predict for how long their cohabitation or marriage will last.