The Progression of Sexual Relationships

Sharon Sassler, Katherine Michelmore, Jennifer A. Holland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The authors examine factors associated with the advancement or dissolution of newly formed sexual relationships. Data from the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) was used to examine women and men aged 18-39 (n = 2,774) whose most recent sexual relationship began within the 12 months before their interview. Results indicate that newly formed sexual relationships are often transitory. By 12 months, only 23% of respondents remained in nonresidential sexual relationships, another 27% were cohabiting with that partner, and half had ended their relationships. Sexual relationships formed before age 25 are significantly more likely to break up than to transition into cohabitation. Indicators of social class disadvantage, such as living with a stepparent, expedited cohabitation, whereas measures of advantage, such as having a college-educated mother, deterred transitions into shared living. Racial differences also emerge: Blacks were less likely than Whites to transition rapidly into shared living.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)587-597
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Cohabitation
  • Relationship processes
  • Sexual relationships
  • Social class
  • Transitions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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