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Tuesday, April 19, 2011
In a Far Away Land There Is "Living-Apart-Together Relationships"
By Patricia Karvelas
MORE than 1.1 million Australians are in what are called living-apart-together relationships - in other words they're a couple but live in different places.
An Australian Institute of Family Studies report, to be published in its Family Matters journal today, shows 24 per cent of the officially single population are actually in a relationship, although the Australian Bureau of Statistics records them as single.
Anna Reimondos, Ann Evans and Edith Gray of ANU's Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute found younger people in this "LAT" group wanted to move in together within the next three years, but two-thirds of the over-45s liked living alone and did not intend to move in with their partners, despite being in long-term relationships.
The researchers used data from the fifth wave of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey, which for the first time asked respondents who were not married and not living with a partner whether they were in a permanent relationship.
Ms Reimondos said it was the first time a clear figure had been delivered on how many people were in LAT relationships that did not involve co-habiting.
"Research from abroad shows these kinds of arrangements are increasing. There are a few reasons it could be rising -- marriage dissolution rates are increasing, people are living longer so they are more likely to form these relationships," she said. "Out of the 45-and-over group, two-thirds said 'No, I do not intend to move in together'. The suggestion is they are more risk-adverse because they've probably gone through a marriage breakdown, and also there's the practicalities of joining two households and adjusting to another person's habits."
The report says it is important to understand more about these partnerships, as the lives of people who are truly single, compared with people who have a non-resident partner, are likely to be different in many respects.
The mean duration of an LAT relationship was 2.4 years and the average length 1.5 years, but the figures hid substantial variations. While 40 per cent had begun their relationship less than 12 months before the survey, 28 per cent were in a union that had lasted for three years or more. Despite not sharing the same residence, the frequency of contact between partners was high, with about 75 per cent meeting at least three times a week, and many on a daily basis.
Four types of people were involved: the under-25s with no children and no history of marriage; the young adults, previously de facto, mainly aged between 25 and 34 with no children and no marriage history; the single parents, usually over 30, most of whom had been married and had at least one child; and the older, previously married group, mainly aged 45 and over who had previously been married.
The report finds a high percentage of young adults who had previously cohabited intended to start living with their partner in the next three years, and to marry in the future.
While couples this age have in the past felt societal pressure to consolidate their relationship by living together or getting married, the survey found that with the new LAT grouping this was not the case.
"For those under 25, the single parents, and the older previously married couples, the pressure to move in with their partner is unlikely to be felt as strongly," the report says.
"Indeed, these groups may even have felt a social pressure not to live with their partner."