Sexual frequency and the stability of marital and cohabiting unions

Scott T. Yabiku, Constance T. Gager

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Prior research found that lower sexual frequency and satisfaction were associated with higher rates of divorce, but little research had examined the role of sexual activity in the dissolution of cohabiting unions. We drew upon social exchange theory to hypothesize why sexual frequency is more important in cohabitation: (a) cohabitors' lower costs of finding sexual alternatives, (b) cohabitors' lower barriers to ending the relationship in the form of union-specific economic and noneconomic capital, and (c) cohabitors' higher expectations for sexual activity. Using the National Survey of Families and Households (N = 5,902), we examined the relationship between sexual frequency and union dissolution. Results indicated that low sexual frequency was associated with significantly higher rates of union dissolution among cohabitors than married couples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)983-1000
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • Cohabitation
  • Dissolution
  • Divorce
  • Marriage
  • Sexual frequency


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