A Comparative Study of Commitment and Relationship Quality in Marital and Cohabiting Unions in Europe

Kenneth Aarskaug Wiik, Statistics Norway
Trude Lappegård, Statistics Norway

Most studies find that cohabitors are less committed to and satisfied with their partnerships than those married. In this study, we utilize data from the first wave of the Generations and Gender Surveys to investigate commitment and union quality in marital and cohabiting unions across eight European countries (Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Romania and Russia). For the Netherlands we use the Netherlands Kinship Panel Study. We expect there to be less differences between cohabitation and marriage in counties where cohabitation is widespread and institutionalized. Preliminary analyses show that in all countries cohabitors more often have breakup plans and are significantly less satisfied (except Hungary and the Netherlands) than those married. Controlling for a range of relevant characteristics of respondents and their partners (e.g., common children, union duration, education) we find that this “cohabitation gap” is largest in Russia, Romania and Bulgaria and least pronounced in the Netherlands and Norway.

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Presented in Session 102: Cohabitation and Marriage