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Research Paper Working Papers of the ESRC Research Centre on Micro-Social Change 96-10

Partnership formation and dissolution in Great Britain


Publication date

01 Aug 1996


Data on complete histories of all spells of marriage and cohabitation from the second wave of British Household Panel Study (1992) are used to explore the changing nature of partnership formation and dissolution in Great Britain. In addition to these life history data, the first four annual waves of the panel are used to analyse the dynamics of partnership. The paper documents the dramatic increase in cohabitation before marriage, and the stability of such unions. Partnership stability has declined for more recent cohorts, regardless of whether a partnership started as cohabitation or marriage. Cohabitations last a short time before being converted into marriage or dissolving: their median length is 19 months for women and 14 months for men. About 60 percent of first cohabitations turn into marriage and 30 percent dissolve within 10 years. Repartnering after dissolution of the first marriage is faster and more common for men than for women, but there is little gender differential in repartnering after dissolution of a cohabitation. Second cobhabitations are much less stable than the first ones. Multivariate analysis reveals that, while partnership is being postponed in young people's lives, the odds of cohabitation relative to marriage are still rising among recent cohorts. Young people with fathers in higher occupations remain single longer, and this social background difference appears to be widening over time.


Households, Family Formation And Dissolution, and Social Behaviour


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