The Nonmarital Childbearing Network

The Intersection Between Childbearing and Union Status


To cohabit or to marry? Insights from focus group research in 9 countries in Europe and Australia

Brienna Perelli-Harris, Ann Berrington, Caroline Berghammer, Ann Evans, Andreas Klärner, Trude Lappegård, Jean-Marie LeGoff, Anna Matysiak, Monika Mynarska, Valérie-Anne Ryser, Daniele Vignoli
General description Although researchers have studied the increase in cohabitation using quantitative data, few have investigated this phenomenon using qualitative data. In this study, we use focus group research to compare the meaning of cohabitation and marriage in Australia and nine countries in Europe. Collaborators conducted up to eight focus groups in each country, coded each discussion, and produced a standardized country report. We are now analyzing this data to compare results across countries. We examine themes such as the advantages and disadvantages of cohabitation and marriage, barriers and motivations to marry, and the appropriate life stages to marry. We also examine the role of children and policies in potentially prompting marriage, as well as perceptions about the future of marriage. The comparative nature of this research highlights similarities and differences across societies and draws out country-specific distinctions. In addition, because we have stratified the groups by gender and education, we can better understand within-country heterogeneity and look for parallels in group responses across countries. Taken as a whole, this study illuminates how societies and cultures shape decision-making processes that are fundamental to partnership formation.

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