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Violence in Common Law and Marital Unions Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Dec 9th, 2021

A Comparison of the Level of Violence against the Women by Their Male Partners in the Common Law Unions and the Marital Unions

Cohabitation has been shown to be on the rise in many countries around the world. Issues such as unemployment, youth, and past unions, low levels of education, and violence by previous partners have been found to be the possible predisposing factors to cohabitation. One of the major outcomes of the increasing pervasiveness of cohabitation is the increasing number of cases of violence in such relationships. In the study, it was shown that between the years 1991- 2000 (Brownridge,2008), the number of intimate femicide cases in cohabitation or common-law unions was about six times that in marriages, in the United States it was about nine times in the common law relationships as in the marriages (Brownridge,2008).

The study employed data collected from Canada’s Violence against Women Survey (VAWS). Some data was borrowed too from the survey done by the General Social Survey (GSS) (Brownridge, 2008). One would expect an increase in the number of violence incidences in the common law relationships due to the high rate at which such unions are being established in several communities. Amazingly, the cases of violence in such unions have been shown to decline in comparison to marital unions.

VAWS in 1993 sampled about 12,300 women and carried out an extensive telephone interview on their experiences of violence since they attained the age of sixteen (Brownridge, 2008).GSS also carried similar telephone interviews of both the men and the women on the nature of the violence they had experienced from their partners since attaining the age of fifteen (Brownridge,2008). Interviewed 25,876 men and women in 1999 but in 2004 it interviewed again a total number of 23,766 men and women (Brownridge, 2008).

The inertia hypothesis posits that cohabitation increases the chances of the partners finally marrying one another. This is because cohabitation tends to increase the constraints in the relationship thereby preventing the partners from ending the relationship The factors that have been associated with cohabitation are either internal for instance, the partners need to be close to one another or external when the reason for cohabitation is a constraint in the relationship such as the presence of a child.

Commitment theory tries to prove this hypothesis right; the theory states that commitment can either be as a result of the need to dedicate oneself to the other or it can be as a result of a constraint in the relationship that results in the partners being forced to stay with one another (Stanley, Kline and Markman, 2005). The level of dedication is never the same and research has shown that women tend to be dedicated more to their partners even after marriage than their male counterparts. Cohabitation allows so many risky unions to be formed especially when the reason for cohabitation is as a result of external issues. For the inertia hypothesis to be true, timing is very important. It is also important that the partners get into a relationship driven instead of being driven by an event that has affected their relationship.

The inertia hypothesis explains that most cohabiters get into the union without realizing, sliding; however, it proposes that the union is likely to be successful if the partners consciously decide to stay together; (Stanley, Kline and Markman, 2005). Cohabitation may either be pre-marital if the partners plan to marry each other after cohabiting for some time, or it may be nonmarital if the partners have no plans of marrying each other any time soon (Stanley, Kline and Markman, 2005). Even though cohabitation before marriage has become a normative experience to the partners, it has been shown to result in poor communication between the partners, high risks of divorce, low relationship satisfaction, and high instances of violence.

Most youths believe that cohabitation lowers the risks of the relationships experiencing problems (Stanley, Kline, and Markman, 2005), with the feeling that cohabitation offers them a platform to understand each other. This belief could be associated with the inertia hypothesis that proposes that cohabitation increases the chances of couples getting married since the constraints of staying together make it difficult for the partners to end the union, research has also shown that those who are less religious and the children brought up in divorced families are more likely to cohabit (Stanley, Kline, and Markman, 2005).

The article has been able to address the issues of cohabitation, its pros and cons, and the possible causes. The article also endeavors to address the issue of violence against women. However, the article has not clearly explained the relationship between cohabitation and violence gave that the disagreements between couples normally go beyond a meager influence of cohabiting. At times, the differences are a result of personality differences or even differences in culture or religion. The article though has highlighted a very crucial issue that has gone unnoticed in various communities; impacts of cohabitation on marriage and child upbringing

Violence is a vice that interferes with most relationships and marriages. The causes of violence in marriages and cohabiting unions are many, though it is notable that most of the differences that result in violence arise from the rush into binding unions before assessing the level of compatibility among the partners. It may be important that partners consider personal assessment before engaging in a binding union. It may also be important that the preference for cohabitation to marriage is changed. This is because cohabitation derails the level of dedication in the marriages and also impacts negatively the children’s upbringing (Stanley, Kline, and Markman, 2005).


Brownridge, D. (2008). The elevated risk for violence against cohabiting women: a comparison of three nationally representative surveys of Canada. Violence against women. Los Angeles: Sage Publishers.

Stanley, S. Kline, G. and Markman, H. (2005). The Inertia Hypothesis: Sliding vs. Deciding in the Development of Risk for Couples in Marriage. University of Denver.

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"Violence in Common Law and Marital Unions." IvyPanda, 9 Dec. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/violence-in-common-law-and-marital-unions/.

1. IvyPanda. "Violence in Common Law and Marital Unions." December 9, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/violence-in-common-law-and-marital-unions/.


IvyPanda. "Violence in Common Law and Marital Unions." December 9, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/violence-in-common-law-and-marital-unions/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "Violence in Common Law and Marital Unions." December 9, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/violence-in-common-law-and-marital-unions/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Violence in Common Law and Marital Unions'. 9 December.

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