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Currently Cohabiting: Relationship Attitudes, Expectations and Outcomes

Part of the Understanding Population Trends and Processes book series (UPTA,volume 1)

The rise in cohabitation – pre-marital, non-marital and post-marital – represents one of the most significant changes in union formation patterns in many developed economies. The importance of cohabitation, and the public debates it generates, are reflected in the media attention it has received. In 2006, there were 2.3 million cohabiting couple families in the UK (ONS, 2007). The increase in cohabitation has occurred alongside other, related, major demographic shifts, including: rising levels of divorce; delay in entry into marriage and childbearing; and a rise in the proportion of births taking place outside marriage. These are all characteristic of the second demographic transition (Van de Kaa, 1987; Lesthaeghe and Surkyn, 2004b), although rising levels of cohabitation in the UK have only partially offset declining marriage rates (Berrington and Diamond, 2000). Even within Europe, divergent trends in the timing, duration, type and composition of cohabiting unions have been identified (Liefbroer and Dourleijn, 2006; Kiernan, 2001; 2004; Prinz, 1995). Theorising about cohabitation encompasses a broad range of perspectives, from notions of selfish individualism and breakdown of the family (Morgan, 2000) to those of the democratic, consensual and “pure” relationship (Giddens, 1992; Beck-Gernsheim, 2002).

Keywords

  • Living Arrangement
  • British Household Panel Survey
  • Selfish Individualism
  • Recent Interview
  • Attitudinal Data

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Fig. 6.1
Fig. 6.2

Notes

  1. 1.

    There are no annual official estimates of the cohabiting population of England and Wales, unlike legal marital status, and trends tend to be derived from surveys such as the Labour Force Survey and General Household Survey (GAD).

  2. 2.

    BSA ad hoc questions on attitudes towards cohabitation are as follows: 1986 “Do you agree or disagree? As a society we ought to do more to safeguard the institution of marriage”. 1986 “Do you agree or disagree? Most people nowadays take marriage too lightly”. 1989 “Do you agree or disagree? Personal freedom is more important than the companionship of marriage”. 1989 “If you were advising a young (wo)man, which of the following ways would you recommend? Live alone with no partner /Live with a partner and not marry / Live with a partner and then marry/ Marry first”. 1989 and 1994 “Do you agree or disagree? The main advantage of marriage is that is gives financial security”. 1994 “Imagine an unmarried couple who decide to have a child, but do not marry? What would your general opinion be?”. 2000 “Many people who live together without getting married are just scared of commitment”. 2000 “There is no point getting married - it’s only a piece of paper”.

  3. 3.

    For example, in 1998, of 187 interviews of currently cohabiting couples, 108 (58 per cent) record a third party as being present. 96 of these 108 interviews (89 per cent) are coded as no influence exerted by the third party.

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Acknowledgment

This research was based on the British Households Panel Survey Consolidated Marital, Cohabitation and Fertility Histories, 1991–2006, produced by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex. Access to the data was via the Economic and Social Data Service, SN: 5629.

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Coast, E. (2009). Currently Cohabiting: Relationship Attitudes, Expectations and Outcomes. In: Kneale, D., Coast, E., Stillwell, J. (eds) Fertility, Living Arrangements, Care and Mobility. Understanding Population Trends and Processes, vol 1. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9682-2_6

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