Volume 32 - Article 10 | Pages 311–340
Risk-avoidance or utmost commitment: Dutch focus group research on views on cohabitation and marriage
|Date received:||20 Nov 2013|
|Date published:||03 Feb 2015|
|Keywords:||cohabitation marriage, commitment, focus groups, Netherlands, risk aversion|
|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/|
Background: Dutch adults grew up in a highly individualized country, characterized by high divorce rates, which may have influenced their views on cohabitation and marriage.
Objective: We examine Dutch adults' perceptions of how similar or different cohabitation and marriage are, whether they believe that cohabitation would be a strategy to avoid the risk of divorce, as well as their views on why people marry in individualized societies.
Methods: We analyze seven focus group interviews with 40 Dutch participants, collected in 2012 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Results: Many participants discussed differences and similarities between cohabitation and marriage in a context of high divorce rates, and frequently viewed cohabitation as a risk-reduction strategy. At the same time, marriage was often seen as ―the real deal‖, in terms of legal arrangements, but also as a symbol of utmost commitment. Less educated participants viewed more financial advantages in cohabitation compared to marriage, and felt more strongly about the symbolic value of marriage than their highly educated counterparts. There was strong consensus that there is not, and should not be, a social norm to marry.
Conclusions: In a context of high relationship instability, cohabitation has become a risk-reduction strategy. When norms to marry are weak, people may marry in order to emphasize the uniqueness of their relationship. However, the individualistic nature of Dutch society is mirrored in respondents' reluctance to set standards or proscribe norms on why and when to marry and their emphasis that cohabitation can also imply high levels of commitment.
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