FRIDAY, Dec. 23, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Fears about the emotional, financial, social and legal consequences of divorce explain why the percentage of married adults in the United States has reached an all-time low, researchers report.
The study of 122 people in cohabitating couples found that 67 percent said they worried about having to deal with the fallout of divorce, the University of Central Oklahoma and Cornell University researchers said in a Cornell news release.
Compared to working-class people, their middle-class counterparts had a more favorable view of marriage and regarded cohabitation as a natural stepping stone to marriage.
Lower-income women were especially likely to have doubts about the "trap" of marriage. Many believed it would lead to more domestic responsibilities with few benefits or that it could hard to get out of a marriage if things go wrong.
The researchers also found that cohabitating working-class couples were more likely to view marriage as "just a piece of paper," that would be nearly the same as their existing relationship.
These couples were twice as likely to have fears about being stuck in a bad marriage once they became reliant on their partner's share of income.
The study was published in the December issue of the journal Family Relations.
The findings could help premarital counselors devise lessons that ease fears of divorce and address the specific concerns of various socioeconomic classes, the researchers said.
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy offers advice about marriage.