Volume 23 - Article 16 | Pages 445-478

´Just Living Together´: Implications of cohabitation for fathers’ participation in child care in Western Europe

By María-José González, Pau Miret-Gamundi, Rocío Treviño

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Date received:16 Mar 2009
Date published:27 Aug 2010
Word count:9510
Keywords:cohabitation, ECHP, Europe, gender division of child care


This article tests the assumption that cohabitation makes a difference in the allocation of child care responsibilities within couples. It has often been presumed that cohabiting individuals are less likely to adhere to traditional gender ideology than married persons, because they tend to have a lower tolerance for poorly functioning relationships, assign more value to individual freedom and base their relationship on egalitarian individualism rather than on the joint utility maximization of married couples. So far, however, most studies have focused on the determinants and consequences of being in cohabitation and have overlooked its gender implications.

Here we explore whether fathers in consensual unions are more prone than fathers in marital unions to share childcare responsibilities with their female partners. We use multilevel regression models for panel data to analyse ECHP in the period between 1996 and 2001. Our sample included around 13,000 couples living in heterosexual partnerships with small children (at least one child below age 13), and yielded around 45,000 observations over this period of time in ten Western European nations. We found weak evidence of the influence of cohabitation on gender equality as compared to married couples, while discovering that the diffusion of cohabitation at the societal level is associated with more equal allotment of child care among partners.

Author's Affiliation

María-José González - Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain [Email]
Pau Miret-Gamundi - Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain [Email]
Rocío Treviño - Centre d'Estudis Demogràfics, Spain [Email]

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