Poverty and InequalitySexual and Reproductive HealthFamily, Maternal & Child HealthMethodology

Bound by children: Intermittent cohabitation and living together apart

TitleBound by children: Intermittent cohabitation and living together apart
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsCross-Barnet, C, Cherlin, A, Burton, L
JournalFamily Relations
Date PublishedDec
ISBN Number01976664 (ISSN)
Accession NumberWOS:000297155100012
KeywordsCohabitation, Family diversity, Homelessness and poverty, Low-income families, Men in families

In this article, we examine variations in low-income mothers' patterns of intermittent cohabitation and the voluntary and involuntary nature of these unions. Intermittent cohabitation involves couples living together and separating in repeating cycles. Using Three-City Study ethnographic data, we identified 45 low-income mothers involved in these arrangements, 18 of whom resided with their children's fathers occasionally while saying that they were not in a cohabiting relationship. We term such relationships living together apart (LTA). Data analysis revealed that distinct patterns of voluntary and involuntary separations and reunifications characterized intermittent cohabitation and LTA and that these relationships were shaped by the bonds that shared parenting created and the economic needs of both parents. We argue that these dimensions may explain some disparate accounts of cohabitation status in low-income populations. They also demonstrate previously unexplored diversity in cohabiting relationships and suggest further questioning contemporary definitions of families. © 2011 by the National Council on Family Relations.