Monday, May 08, 2006

"Shacking up" without shacking up

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It's called LAT--"Living apart, together."
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Witness the next level in the dissolution of the family. It strikes one as clearly wrong, but also leaves you so dumbfounded as to replace your reservoir of gab with a whimpering "Huh?".

Here's the story, courtesy of Eurekalert!

Traditionally, marriage has been the dominant social institution for couples. Some decades ago a new institution appeared in the western world: non-martial cohabitation. Today, yet another form has developed in Sweden. Four percent of the population chooses to be together, forming a unit, but living in separate households. The phenomenon is described in a new book in Swedish, written by Professor Jan Trost, sociologist at Uppsala University, Sweden, and Irene Levin at Oslo University College in Norway.

They have been studying the new phenomenon in Sweden since 1993 when there were only 65 000 LAT (Living Apart Together-couples) in the country. In 1998, the proportion has risen to 130 000, or four percent of the population. Living Apart Together seems to have the potential of becoming a third stage in the process of social change. "Our analysis suggests that the existence of cohabitation alongside marriage, is a necessary precondition for LATs, regarding recognition as a new social institution alongside marriage and cohabitation," comments Professor Jan Trost.

The great social changes in the Scandinavian countries took place in the beginning of 1970, when the former connected elements: start of living together, marrying, having sex and having a child within a years fell apart. Today, sex is not related to marriage, nor is childbearing to living together. The reasons for couples to live in LAT relationship varies, from not wanting to give up their jobs, to shared custody of children from earlier marriages. Interesting enough, many couples who have the ambition to move and live together after for example retirement, actually continue to live in different households.

Modern society is transforming rapidly. But marriage, or at least living together, is still the ideal. "My belief is that LATs will continue to be a minority, but a minority that deserves recognition," claims Professor Trost. Whether or not LAT also exists in other countries, remains to be seen. As far as the researcher knows, there has been no international study of this kind of relationship.

Let me do some free consulting . . . Get ready; it's here.

You can read about an Oslo study on LATs here, or statistics from Britain here, or the story from the San Francisco Chronicle here.

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