Spatial Mobility, Family Dynamics, and Housing Transitions

  • Michael WagnerEmail author
  • Clara H. Mulder


This paper summarizes theoretical approaches and empirical research on the links between partnership and family dynamics on the one hand and spatial mobility and housing transitions on the other. Spatial mobility includes residential relocations and commuting. We consider three types of partnerships—living apart together, unmarried and married co-residential unions—and the transitions between them. We also consider separations and the death of a partner. Moreover, we pay attention to childbirth and its consequences for relocation decisions and housing. We differentiate spatial mobility according to distance and direction; housing transitions are considered mainly with respect to changes in ownership status and housing quality (e.g. size of the accommodation). In line with the adjustment perspective on spatial mobility, this paper demonstrates that spatial mobility is a means for individuals and households to adjust their housing situation and their place of residence to requirements of a changing household size and composition as well as to demands of the labor market. At the same time, spatial mobility seems to be more than a mere adjustment process of individuals or households: it is also a determinant of life course changes.


Residential mobility Commuting Partnership Family Life course Housing 

Räumliche Mobilität, Familiendynamik und Wohnen


Dieser Artikel beschäftigt sich mit theoretischen Ansätzen und empirischen Befunden zu den Interdependenzen zwischen Partnerschaft und Familiendynamik einerseits und räumlicher Mobilität und dem Wohnverlauf andererseits. Räumliche Mobilität schließt dabei Wohnungswechsel und Pendelmobilität ein. Wir betrachten drei Partnerschaftstypen, living apart together, nichteheliches und eheliches Zusammenleben sowie die Übergänge zwischen diesen Lebensformen; ebenfalls beziehen wir die Trennung von Partnerschaften sowie den Tod eines Partners mit ein. Schließlich befassen wir uns mit der Geburt von Kindern und ihren Folgen für Mobilitätsentscheidungen und Wohnsituation. Bei der räumlichen Mobilität unterscheiden wir Distanz und Richtung. Im Hinblick auf den Wohnverlauf richten wir unser Augenmerk vor allem auf Veränderungen des Eigentümerstatus und der Wohnqualität (z. B. die Wohnungsgröße). In Übereinstimmung mit einer theoretischen Perspektive, die räumliche Mobilität als Anpassungsprozess ansieht, stellen wir fest, dass räumliche Mobilität ein Mittel für Individuen und Haushalte ist, ihre Wohnsituation und ihren Wohnort an die Erfordernisse einer sich verändernden Haushaltsgröße und -struktur sowie an die Erfordernisse des Arbeitsmarktes anzupassen. Gleichzeitig ist räumliche Mobilität aber mehr als ein bloßer Anpassungsprozess von Individuen und Haushalten: Sie ist auch eine Determinante von Veränderungen im Lebenslauf.


Wohnmobilität Pendelmobilität Partnerschaft Familie Lebensverlauf Wohnen 



We thank an external reviewer, Sandra Krapf (Cologne), and Julia Mikolai (Liverpool) for very helpful comments to an earlier version of the paper.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Sociology and Social PsychologyUniversity of CologneCologneGermany
  2. 2.Faculty of Spatial Sciences, Population Research CentreUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

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