The changing meaning of cohabitation. A sequence analysis approach

Paola DiGiulio, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/Ă–AW, WU)
Roberto Impicciatore, UniversitĂ  degli Studi di Milano
Maria Sironi, University of Oxford

The diffusion of cohabitation during the last decades is one of the most striking aspects of wider social changes that have taken place throughout the industrialized world. In the course of its development, the meaning of cohabitation has changed from being a deviant behaviour up to an almost fully accepted one. Some typical phases in the development of the phenomenon have been underlined in literature, according to its growing social acceptability, the increasing acceptance of childbearing in cohabiting couples, and the increasing difficulty to tell cohabiting couples apart from married ones. However, previous research started from a pre-defined ideal type of cohabitation. In this paper we apply sequence analysis techniques on GGS data in order to produce grouping that are suggested by data reducing the influence of researcher. Focusing on the chain of events that links the start of a union, the birth of the first child and the (possible) end of a union, we can better understand the different meaning giving to cohabitation in five different countries (France, Italy, Norway, Romania, and U.S.) and changes occurred over cohorts. Our results suggest a generalized decreasing trend for the cohabitation as a trial marriage and an increasing trend for cohabitation as an alternative to singlehood, i.e. with no other commitments like marriage or children. However, differences among selected countries seem to persist suggesting that cohabitation still means something different in the considered countries.

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Presented in Session 74: Trends, determinants and patterns of cohabitation