Volume 37 - Article 8 | Pages 189–228  

Cross-national differences in women's repartnering behaviour in Europe: The role of individual demographic characteristics

By Paulina Gałęzewska, Brienna Perelli-Harris, Ann Berrington

This article is part of the Special Collection 21 "Separation, Divorce, Repartnering, and Remarriage around the World"


Background: With rising union instability across Europe, more individuals now re-enter the partner market and eventually repartner. The increase in cohabitation may also be influencing repartnering behaviour. While several studies examine individual-level characteristics related to repartnering, few take a broader view and compare repartnering levels or explore how demographic characteristics associated with repartnering differ across Europe.

Objective: We describe levels of repartnering and the characteristics of those exposed to repartnering in 11 European countries. We then examine whether the relationship between women’s demographic characteristics at union dissolution and repartnering are similar or different across countries. Given the recent increase in cohabitation, we pay particular attention to prior cohabitation and marriage, but we also compare age at first union dissolution, first union duration, and presence of children.

Methods: Using the Harmonized Histories database, we apply discrete-time hazard models separately by country and to pooled cross-national data.

Results: Despite large differences in levels of repartnering, in most countries we find similar associations between demographic characteristics and repartnering. First union type did not matter after controlling for age and children, except in France, where those who previously cohabited had significantly lower risks of repartnering. Age at union dissolution and presence of children are negatively associated with repartnering in almost all countries.

Conclusions: Although cohabitation has increased everywhere, prior experience of a coresidential partnership outside of formal marriage makes little difference to repartnering behaviour after controls (except in France). However, regardless of country, older women and/or mothers are less likely to form second unions.

Contribution: This study contributes to previous research by examining whether the effects of women’s demographic characteristics on repartnering are universal across 11 European countries and to what extent the differences in age and fertility at separation and first union type help explain the cross-national variation in repartnering in Europe.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

The role of education in the intersection of partnership transitions and motherhood in Europe and the United States
Volume 39 - Article 27

Commitment and the changing sequence of cohabitation, childbearing, and marriage: Insights from qualitative research in the UK
Volume 33 - Article 12

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

Investigating the application of generalized additive models to discrete-time event history analysis for birth events
Volume 47 - Article 22

The fertility of recent migrants to England and Wales
Volume 34 - Article 36

Educational differences in timing and quantum of childbearing in Britain: A study of cohorts born 1940−1969
Volume 33 - Article 26

Exploring social norms around cohabitation: The life course, individualization, and culture: Introduction to Special Collection: "Focus on Partnerships: Discourses on cohabitation and marriage throughout Europe and Australia"
Volume 33 - Article 25

Changes in partnership patterns across the life course: An examination of 14 countries in Europe and the United States
Volume 33 - Article 6

Educational differences in early childbearing: A cross-national comparative study
Volume 33 - Article 3

The changing determinants of UK young adults' living arrangements
Volume 25 - Article 20

Ukraine: On the border between old and new in uncertain times
Volume 19 - Article 29

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