European Journal of Population / Revue européenne de Démographie

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 47-82

First online:

The Diffusion of Cohabitation among Young Women in West Germany, East Germany and Italy

  • Tiziana NazioAffiliated withFaculty of Sociology, University of Bielefeld
  • , Hans-Peter BlossfeldAffiliated withFaculty of Sociology, University of Bielefeld Email author 

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Using longitudinal data fromthe Fertility and Family Surveys andindividual-level diffusion models, the paperstudies the spreading of cohabitation amongyoung women in three countries with differentinstitutional contexts: the conservativewelfare capitalist West Germany, the formersocialist East Germany and the familialistItaly. The description of the diffusion processacross generations shows that in East and WestGermany successive birth cohorts experiencednot only an impressive rise in the proportionsof cumulative pre-cohort adoption but also asteep increase in the cumulative proportions ofpeer group adoption (to about 40–50%) at eachage. In contrast, in Italy even among theyoungest birth cohorts not more than about 10%of women have adopted cohabitation beforeeventually entering into first marriage. Theresults of the paper suggest that the diffusionof cohabitation does not imply a strongmechanism that links the cohabitationexperiences across generations. Rather,cohabitation seems to be driven mainly bydirect social modelling of peers.

cohabitation family formation diffusion social modelling structural equivalence