Book Chapter Analytical Family Demography
Sequence analysis as a tool for family demography
In this chapter we describe the development of sequence analysis (SA) techniques to investigate the process of family formation and dissolution. Family structure has changed substantially in past decades, and family trajectories are more heterogeneous than they used to be in the past. The age at first marriage has increased in many, if not all, western societies; cohabitation has become a very standard stage in people’s family formation; divorce rates rose considerably since the 1970s, but their growth slowed down and even halted in some countries; and stepfamilies have become more and more common. All these trends imply not only changes in the timing of events, but also changes in the sequencing and the duration of events. Many aspects of family trajectories have been analyzed individually, without taking into account the interrelation among different events. However, it is necessary to look at the process of union formation and the subsequent family pathways from a holistic point of view. Sequence analysis is therefore the appropriate tool to analyze family histories, taking into account the timing, sequencing, and duration of events. In this chapter we discuss the way in which sequence analysis has been used so far in family demography, and illustrate the most relevant developments and innovative procedures relative to this technique. In the second part of the chapter we use data from the European Social Survey to illustrate an empirical application of sequence analysis and describe family trajectories across European countries.