Volume 35 - Article 40 | Pages 1169–1212

Partnership trajectories of people in stable non-cohabiting relationships in France

By Arnaud Régnier-Loilier

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Date received:09 Oct 2015
Date published:25 Oct 2016
Word count:8387
Keywords:couples, France, Generations and Gender Survey (GGS), living apart together (LAT), longitudinal approach, non-coresidential partnership, partnership trajectory


Background: In France, nearly one in ten people are in a stable non-cohabiting partnership. Many studies have pointed out the diversity of the phenomenon.

Objective: However, cross-sectional data does not distinguish between temporary, transitory, or more lasting situations. In order to contribute to a better understanding of living apart relationships, we follow changes in the partnership situation of people in stable non-coresidential intimate relationships and identify which characteristics correspond to which partnership trajectories: still living apart, moved in together, or relationship ended.

Methods: The three waves of the French Generations and Gender Survey are used. After describing the state of the non-coresidential relationships after three and six years, we apply multinomial logistic regression modelling to characterize the various trajectories.

Results: After three years, 22% of people in a stable non-coresidential relationship are still with the same partner, and after six years, 12%. The longitudinal data reveals two main situations among the youngest respondents: non-cohabitation as a stage leading ultimately to moving in together and as an experiment in intimate relationships that were considered to be stable but did not last. At the other end of the age range, non-cohabitation is more a form of coupledom in its own right, expected to last.

Conclusions: Our results highlight the wide diversity of the meaning of 'non-coresidential partnership,' depending to a large extent on the moment in the life course at which it takes place and on the relationship history. Overall, in France, non-cohabiting relationships appear to be more often a prelude and not an alternative to marriage or cohabitation, especially during the first stages of the life course.

Contribution: For the first time, longitudinal data is used to study non-coresidential relationships and the partnership trajectories of people in this situation. This paper contributes to the debate on the signification of non-coresidential relationships as captured in a demographic survey.

Author's Affiliation

Arnaud Régnier-Loilier - Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED), France [Email]

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» Neither single, nor in a couple. A study of living apart together in France
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