Premarital cohabitation, childbearing and the creation of one parent families -working paper-

Publication type

Research Paper

Series Number



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


Publication date

June 1, 1995


The life histories collected in the second wave of the BHPS are used to study the changing importance of cohabitation without legal marriage and childbearing within such unions in Britain, comparing the experiences of two broad cohorts of women: those born during 1950- 62 and those born after 1962. The analysis indicates that the main reason for the observed growth in childbearing within cohabitation is the dramatic increase in cohabitation before marriage. Indeed, it is now the most popular form of first partnership, and the odds of cohabitation relative to marriage are still rising among recent cohorts reaching young adulthood. In addition, childbearing is also more common among more recent cohorts of cohabiting women. About one-half of these fertile cohabitational unions dissolve, producing a never-married lone mother. Estimates in the paper suggest that among recent cohorts of women, about two-fifths of one parent families headed by never-married mothers are created through childbearing within cohabitation followed by dissolution of the cohabitational union.



working paper

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