Volume 32 - Article 8 | Pages 251–286
Why do intimate partners live apart? Evidence on LAT relationships across Europe
Aart C. Liefbroer,
11 Mar 2013
28 Jan 2015
This article is part of the Special Collection 19 "New Relationships from a Comparative Perspective"
Background: Most research asks whether or not cohabitation has come to rival marriage. Little is known about the meaning of living apart together (LAT) relationships, and whether LAT is an alternative to marriage and cohabitation or a dating relationship.
Objective: We examine across Europe: (1) the prevalence of LAT, (2) the reasons for LAT, and (3) the correlates of (a) LAT relationships vis-à-vis being single, married, or cohabiting, and (b) different types of LAT union.
Methods: Using Generations and Gender Survey data from ten Western and Eastern European countries, we present descriptive statistics about LATs and estimate multinominal logistic regression models to assess the correlates of being in different types of LAT unions.
Results: LAT relationships are uncommon, but they are more common in Western than Eastern Europe. Most people in LAT unions intend to live together but are apart for practical reasons. LAT is more common among young people, those enrolled in higher education, people with liberal attitudes, highly educated people, and those who have previously cohabited or been married. Older people and divorced or widowed persons are more likely to choose LAT to maintain independence. Surprisingly, attitudinal and educational differences are more pronounced in Eastern Europe than in Western Europe.
Conclusions: A tentative conclusion is that LAT is more often a stage in the union formation process than an alternative to marriage and cohabitation. Yet some groups do view LAT as substituting for marriage and cohabitation, and these groups differ between East and West. In Eastern Europe a cultural, highly educated elite seems to be the first to resist traditional marriage norms and embrace LAT (and cohabitation) as alternative living arrangements, whereas this is less the case in Western Europe. In Western Europe, LAT unions are mainly an alternative for persons who have been married before or had children in a prior relationship.
- Aart C. Liefbroer - Nederlands Interdisciplinair Demografisch Instituut (NIDI), the Netherlands EMAIL
- Anne-Rigt Poortman - Universiteit Utrecht, the Netherlands EMAIL
- Judith Seltzer - University of California, Los Angeles, United States of America EMAIL
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