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Cohabiters are traditional, contrary to alternative living style, Cornell sociologist says

Although cohabitation outside of marriage is still considered by some to be an alternative lifestyle, working-class cohabiters are quite conventional when it comes to advancing their relationship, pursuing careers and doing housework, says Cornell sociologist Sharon Sassler.

Most of the 30 cohabiting working-class couples interviewed for the study still comply with traditional patterns throughout their relationships, including the initiation of the first date, moving in together and discussing marriage, Sassler said. They also are not egalitarian in pursuing careers or doing housework.

"Our results indicate that the institution of gender is so pervasive and entrenched that it shapes even the behaviors of individuals in such alternative living arrangements as cohabitation," said Sassler, associate professor of policy analysis and management in the College of Human Ecology.

Although the findings are based on working-class couples, Sassler said that there is reason to believe that middle-class cohabiting couples follow similar patterns, but more research is needed to confirm this.

Sassler presented her findings at the American Sociological Association's annual meeting, held Aug. 11-14 in Montreal.

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