Volume 31 - Article 36 | Pages 1107–1136

Free to stay, free to leave: Insights from Poland into the meaning of cohabitation

By Monika Mynarska, Anna Baranowska-Rataj, Anna Matysiak

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Date received:30 Mar 2014
Date published:12 Nov 2014
Word count:7960
Keywords:cohabitation, focus group interviews, freedom
DOI:10.4054/DemRes.2014.31.36
Weblink:You will find all publications in this Special Collection “Focus on Partnerships: Discourses on cohabitation and marriage throughout Europe and Australia” at http://www.demographic-research.org/special/17/
 

Abstract

Background: Previous studies have shown that in Poland cohabitation is most of all a transitory step or a testing period before marriage. Polish law does not recognize this living arrangement and it has been portrayed as uncommitted and short-lived. However, few studies have investigated what cohabitation means for relationships, especially with respect to freedom.

Objective: We explore how young people in Poland understand and evaluate freedom in cohabitation. We investigate how they view the role freedom plays in couple dynamics and in relationship development.

Methods: We analyze data from focus group interviews conducted in Warsaw with men and women aged 25-40. We identify passages in which opinions on cohabitation and marriage are discussed, and use bottom-up coding and the constant comparative method to reconstruct different perspectives on the issue of freedom in cohabitation.

Results: The respondents argued that cohabitation offers the partners freedom to leave a union at any time with few repercussions. On the negative side, the freedom related to cohabitation brings insecurity, especially for young mothers. On the positive side, it offers relaxed conditions for testing a relationship, grants partners independence, and encourages cohabitors to keep their relationship interesting, precisely because it is fragile and easy to dissolve.

Conclusions: The open nature of cohabitation offers benefits to partners, but does not provide secure conditions for childbearing. As long as the couple is not planning to have children, however, the benefits of cohabitation are likely to be seen as outweighing the disadvantages.

Author's Affiliation

Monika Mynarska - Uniwersytet Kardynała Stefana Wyszyńskiego w Warszawie, Poland [Email]
Anna Baranowska-Rataj - Umeå Universitet, Sweden [Email]
Anna Matysiak - Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU), Austria [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» Does the number of siblings affect health in midlife? Evidence from the Swedish Prescribed Drug Register
Volume 35 - Article 43

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

» Levels of recent union formation : Six European countries compared
Volume 22 - Article 9

» Is Poland really 'immune' to the spread of cohabitation?
Volume 21 - Article 8

» Poland: Fertility decline as a response to profound societal and labour market changes?
Volume 19 - Article 22

» Stochastic forecast of the population of Poland, 2005-2050
Volume 17 - Article 11

» Meanings and attitudes attached to cohabitation in Poland: Qualitative analyses of the slow diffusion of cohabitation among the young generation
Volume 16 - Article 17

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