Volume 36 - Article 55 | Pages 1703–1720
From never partnered to serial cohabitors: Union trajectories to childlessness
19 Dec 2016
25 May 2017
Background: Childlessness has increased in many European countries. Partnerships and parenthood are obviously closely related, but there is relatively little knowledge on how childlessness is linked to contemporary union dynamics that involve high rates of separation and unmarried cohabitation.
Objective: To situate (biological) childlessness in longitudinal dynamics of union formation and stability, we take a life-course approach to union trajectories that consist of states entered via the formation and dissolution of cohabitations and marriages. Concretely, we identify groups of similar union trajectories of individuals between the ages of 18 and 39 who are childless at age 42.
Methods: We analyse register data on Finnish men and women born in 1969 and 1970 (childless N=3,241) with sequence, cluster, and multinomial logistic regression methods.
Results: Four clusters of typical union trajectories were identified among the childless and assigned these labels: 1) Never Partnered (45%), characterized by never having entered a coresidential partnership, or just having entered a cohabitation near age 40; 2) Briefly Cohabited (25%), characterized by mostly living single after a brief cohabitation spell; 3) Cohabitors, Often Serial (19%), marked by typically discontinuous cohabitation; and 4) Married (11%). The Never-Partnered cluster is male-dominated. Men with a rural background and less-educated men and women are overrepresented among the Never-Partnered childless.
Conclusions: For the great majority of the childless in our study cohorts, union trajectories are marked by either the (almost) complete absence of coresidential unions or fragmentary cohabitation histories.
Contribution: The study contributes to the literature by showing that union histories, including never partnering as well as cohabitation instability, are key for understanding contemporary childlessness.
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- Marika Jalovaara - Turun Yliopisto (University of Turku), Finland EMAIL
- Anette Fasang - Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany EMAIL
Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research
Are there gender differences in family trajectories by education in Finland?
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A register-based account of period trends in union prevalence, entries, and exits by educational level for men and women in Finland
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Gender division of housework during the COVID-19 pandemic: Temporary shocks or durable change?
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The complexity of employment and family life courses across 20th century Europe: More evidence for larger cross-national differences but little change across 1916‒1966 birth cohorts
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Homeownership after separation: A longitudinal analysis of Finnish register data
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Pathways to death: The co-occurrence of physical and mental health in the last years of life
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Social policies, separation, and second birth spacing in Western Europe
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Homogamy in socio-economic background and education, and the dissolution of cohabiting unions
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Does his paycheck also matter?: The socioeconomic resources of co-residential partners and entry into parenthood in Finland
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Recent fertility patterns of Finnish women by union status: A descriptive account
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A review of the antecedents of union dissolution
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Socioeconomic differentials in divorce risk by duration of marriage
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