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.
KeywordsMarriage Rate Romantic Love Marriage Pattern Public Commitment Marriage Ceremony
- ABS. (2007). Marriage, Australia 2006 (Catalogue no. 3306.0.55.001). Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.Google Scholar
- ABS. (2008). Australian historical population statistics, 2008 (Catalogue no. 3105.0.65.001). Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.Google Scholar
- ABS. (2010). Marriages and divorces, Australia, 2010 (Catalogue no. 3310.0). Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.Google Scholar
- ABS. (2011). Marriages and divorces, Australia, 2011 (Catalogue no. 3310.0). Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.Google Scholar
- ABS. (2012a). Marriages and divorces, Australia, 2012 (Catalogue no. 3310.0). Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.Google Scholar
- ABS. (2012b). Australian social trends (Catalogue no. 4102.0). Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.Google Scholar
- Bauman, Z. (2000). Liquid modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Beck-Gernsheim, E. (2002). Reinventing the family: In search of new lifestyles. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Beck, U., & Beck-Gernsheim, E. (1995). The normal chaos of love. London: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Brynin, M., & Ermisch, J. (2009). Introduction: The social significance of relationships. In M. Brynin & J. Ermisch (Eds.), Changing relationships. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Buchler, S., Baxter, J., Haynes, M., & Western, M. (2009). The social and demographic characteristics of cohabiters in Australia: Towards a typology of cohabiting couples. Family Matters, 82, 22–29.Google Scholar
- De Vaus, D. (2004). Diversity and change in Australian families: Statistical profiles. Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.Google Scholar
- De Vaus, D., Qu, L., & Weston, R. (2003). Premarital cohabitation and subsequent marital stability. Family Matters, 65, 34–39.Google Scholar
- Edin, K., & Kefalas, M. (2005). Promises I can keep: Why poor women put motherhood before marriage. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Eurostat European Union. (2012). Europe in figures, Eurostat year book, 2012. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.Google Scholar
- Eurostat. (2013). Crude marriage rate European Union graph. http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/tgm/graph. Accessed 2 Dec 2013.
- Evans, A., & Baxter, J. (Eds.). (2013). Negotiating the life course. Stability and change in life pathways. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
- Giddens, A. (1992). The transformation of intimacy. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Heard, G. (2012, June 26). Australian census: For better or worse, marriage persists. The Conversation. http://theconversation.com/australian-census-for-better-or-worse-marriage-persists-7677. Accessed 15 May 2014.
- NVivo qualitative data analysis software; QSR International Pty Ltd. Version 9, 2010.Google Scholar
- OECD. (2009). Marriage and divorce. In OECD, Society at a glance 2009: OECD social indicators. OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/soc_glance-2008-8-en. Accessed 16 May 2014.
- OECD. (2012). OECD family database. www.oecd.org/social/family/database. Accessed 22 Sept 2013.
- Qu, L., & Soriano, G. (2004). Forming couple relationships: Adolescents’ aspirations and young adults’ actualities. Family Matters, 68, 43–49.Google Scholar
- StataCorp. (2008). Stata statistical software, release 10.0. College Station: Stata Corporation.Google Scholar
- Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
- United Nations Statistical Division. (2011). Demographic yearbook 2011. Retrieved from http://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic