Partner relationship quality in the UK and abroad: unemployment causes and family consequencesISER External Seminars

Here we investigate how unemployment is related to partner relationship quality in the UK. Next we study how relationship quality influence the likelihood of marriage, first birth, and separation in the UK and abroad. We investigate multiple dimensions of unemployment – current unemployment, changes in unemployment, duration of unemployment, and past unemployment – each of which provides unique insights into how economic uncertainty can strain relationships. Using British longitudinal data (UKHLS), we employ random and fixed regression analyses. The results highlight the gendered nature of relationships and employment within British couples. Unemployment is related to lower quality partner relationships, particularly men’s unemployment. These problems within the relationship accumulated over the course of men’s unemployment spells. In addition, men’s re-employment did not solve problems rising from unemployment, as women continued to be less happy with the relationship when their male partner was unemployed in the recent past.
Next we ask how the quality of the partner relationship influences couple’s family transitions. We use a cross-national perspective to investigate how the context shapes the way how relationship quality is associated with family transitions. The UKHLS and the Generation and Gender Survey, covering seven European countries (Austria, Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Netherlands, Sweden, and UK) are used. We employ competing risk hazard models to follow respondents as they 1) transition from cohabitation into marriage or childbearing; 2) transition from marriage or cohabitation into parenthood; and 3) separate after having children. The analyses show that relationship quality is associated with a higher chance of marriage in most but not all countries, and is only associated with childbearing in Sweden. Instead in most countries relationship quality works through marriage; higher quality relationships are more likely to marry, which in turn induces childbearing rates. In conclusion, (male) unemployment reduces the quality of partner relationships thus indirectly reducing marriage rates and, via lower chances of marriage, reducing the likelihood of childbearing.

Presented by:

Niels Blom, University of Southampton

Date & time:

26 Feb 2020 12:30 pm - 26 Feb 2020 13:30 pm


ISER Large Seminar Room 2N2.4.16

External seminars home


Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest