Along with most Western nations, Australia has witnessed a decline in marriage, an increase in divorce, and a growth in the number of couples choosing to cohabit prior to, or instead of, marriage. In the mid-1970s, just 16 % of couples lived together before marrying. Now, more than three-quarters of couples do so. Same-sex marriage is commonly debated, and most states in Australia recognize same-sex relationships as a legitimate form of intimate partnering. Marriage is no longer considered an essential foundation for raising children with growing numbers of people raising children outside marriage, either as single parents or in cohabiting relationships. Despite these substantial social shifts however, marriage remains an aspiration for many young Australians and most marry at some point in their lives. This chapter commences by describing trends in the marriage rate in Australia over several decades using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, providing international comparisons where appropriate. We then review theoretical perspectives concerned with explaining change in marriage patterns and trends that provide insights into the reasons why most still aspire to marriage. Data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey are used to investigate who gets married in Australia, while in-depth interviews with men and women from a smaller study investigate the meaning of marriage in people’s lives. We conclude the chapter with a discussion of possible future developments and implications.
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