Tyler B. Jamison and Lawrence Ganong, “‘We’re Not Living Together:’ Stayover Relationships among College-educated Emerging Adults,” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (November 2010).
“Emerging adults” is a category of young people ages 18–29 who are still transitioning between adolescence and true, independent adulthood. This population is sometimes referred to as “college-age” since the campus experience often plays a role in this extended search for social and sexual identity. In this study, a small sample of 22 college students and college graduates from a Midwestern U.S. campus were interviewed to better understand the phenomenon of “stayover relationships,” which appear to be increasing in popularity among college-educated emerging adults.
- Some young couples do not cohabitate (“live together”), but do stay overnight together between three and seven nights per week while living in separate homes.
- Stayovers serve as “a stopgap measure between casual dating and making more formal commitments”such as co-habitation or marriage.1
- Some, but not all, stayover relationships will evolve into full-time cohabitation and, perhaps, marriage.
The field of sexuality education has long assumed that most young people move predictably from childhood (the preteen years) to adolescence (the teen years) and then to adulthood (age 18 and older). Sexuality education programs and curricula are often based on this three-stage model of the life cycle, intending to prepare young people for parenthood and marriage as the expected standards for true adulthood. Over the past two decades, research into “emerging adulthood” has challenged the three-stage model and the assumptions of sexuality educators. Emerging adults, defined roughly as those ages 18–29 and often still living with parents, are likely to be in sexual relationships but not ready to make commitments such as marriage or long-term cohabitation. The relationship between “stayovers” and monogamy is not well understood.
Based on this study, and recognizing the limitation of its small sample size, stayovers appear to be popular among college-educated emerging adults because they are convenient, allow for personal autonomy at a time of social, economic, and sexual uncertainty in young people’s lives, and allow them to practice the skills needed for long-term, adult commitments: communication, intimacy, and respect. Stayovers are likely to remain an arrangement chosen by at least some segment of the U.S. population. Looking ahead, sexuality education programs for young people should acknowledge the reality of “emerging adulthood” and should help young people anticipate the consequences, benefits, and drawbacks of stayovers.
1Jamison TB, Ganong L (2010). ’We’re not living together’: Stayover relationships among college-educated emerging adults. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 28(4): 536. <http://spr.sagepub.com/content/28/4/536.abstract>