Volume 32 - Article 9 | Pages 287–310  

The link between parenthood and partnership in contemporary Norway - Findings from focus group research

By Trude Lappegård, Turid Noack

This article is part of the Special Collection 17 "Focus on Partnerships: Discourses on cohabitation and marriage throughout Europe and Australia"


Background: The increase in childbearing within cohabitation raises a question about the link between parenthood and partnership. In Norway, having the first child in cohabitation has become the most common pattern.

Objective: The paper studies the interrelated meaning of partnership, marriage, and childbearing. We ask what children mean to partnerships, what the meaning of marriage is for childbearing, and what reasons there are for marrying besides childbearing.

Methods: The data consist of eight focus group interviews on marriage and cohabitation. Each group had between five and nine participants aged 25 to 40 years, and was stratified by gender and education. All participants were Norwegian citizens living in Oslo. Both authors reviewed and discussed the central thematic categories relevant to the research question.

Results: When people feel free to choose between cohabitation and marriage, the role of parenthood becomes more salient for forming a union. We find that the meaning of partnership has shifted from being defined around marriage to being defined around having a child, which makes the link between partnership and childbearing more interesting. Discussing whether to have children or a pregnancy can bring up the question of marriage and make it more relevant. The conclusion, however, is not that marriage is normative when parenthood occurs. Although the focus groups participants did not feel any pressure to have children in marriage, the general opinion was that childbearing and marriage were linked. Opinions differed, however, about the nature of such a link.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Unemployment and fertility: The relationship between individual and aggregated unemployment and fertility during 1994–2014 in Norway
Volume 46 - Article 35

Parental leave policies and continued childbearing in Iceland, Norway, and Sweden
Volume 40 - Article 51

Can a cash transfer to families change fertility behaviour?
Volume 38 - Article 33

Introduction to the Special Collection on Finding Work-Life Balance: History, Determinants, and Consequences of New Bread-Winning Models in the Industrialized World
Volume 37 - Article 26

Towards a new understanding of cohabitation: Insights from focus group research across Europe and Australia
Volume 31 - Article 34

Cohort fertility patterns in the Nordic countries
Volume 20 - Article 14

New fertility trends in Norway
Volume 2 - Article 3

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