Volume 43 - Article 6 | Pages 143–168  

Transitions to partnership and parenthood: Is China still traditional?

By William A.V. Clark, Daichun Yi

This article is part of the Special Collection 28 "Life-Course Decisions of Families in China"


Background: In the context of rapid economic and social change in China, we analyze young adult life course trajectories in the important decisions around forming partnerships and creating a family. We focus on the decisions by the millennial young adult cohort who are under 40 years of age.

Objective: We ask “Is China following the Western pattern of delayed marriage and family formation or will the cultural context create a different trajectory to marriage and family formation?”

Methods: The study uses data from the China Household Finance Survey. The study examines the extent to which the life-course trajectories are changing in a period of rapid economic and social change, and how parental support and extended family linkages influence the relative rate of the trajectory to marriage and family formation. We use both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses.

Results: We show that cross generational links are important and reflect the cultural context of the special nature of strong linkages across parents, children, and grandchildren in China. Although age at marriage has increased modestly, marriage is still the norm and having a child takes place quite rapidly after marriage.

Contribution: This paper places the transition to marriage and family formation into an international context and shows how deep cultural forces are changing only slowly with economic modernization. Overall, the analysis suggests more continuity than change in young adults’ life course decisions with respect to marriage and family formation.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Introduction to the special collection on life course decisions of families in China
Volume 43 - Article 5

Loss aversion and duration of residence
Volume 35 - Article 36

Do women delay family formation in expensive housing markets?
Volume 27 - Article 1

Family migration and mobility sequences in the United States: Spatial mobility in the context of the life course
Volume 17 - Article 20

A comparative analysis of leaving home in the United States, the Netherlands and West Germany
Volume 7 - Article 17

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