Volume 39 - Article 15 | Pages 431–458 Editor's Choice Author has provided data and code for replicating results

Joint lifestyles and the risk of union dissolution: Differences between marriage and cohabitation

By Kirsten van Houdt, Anne-Rigt Poortman

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Date received:11 Sep 2017
Date published:07 Sep 2018
Word count:6925
Keywords:cohabitation, divorce, intimate relationship, marriage
Additional files:readme.39-15 (text file, 935 Byte)
 demographic-research.39-15 (zip file, 82 kB)


Background: Love, intimacy, and companionship are considered the cement of contemporary couple relationships. Yet previous research studying how the way that couples arrange their social life and leisure time relates to the stability of their union has focused exclusively on married couples.

Objective: This study examines the extent to which married and cohabiting couples have joint lifestyles and how this relates to their risk of union dissolution, and explores heterogeneity within these groups. In this way, it provides insight into how couples in these different types of unions arrange their lives jointly and what keeps them together.

Methods: We apply multilevel panel models and Cox event history models using four waves of the Netherlands Kinship Panel Study (N = 4,255).

Results: Cohabiters have more separate lifestyles than married couples, in particular when it comes to joint friendships and social visits, while marital intentions or prior cohabitation makes no difference. Joint lifestyles are – for marriage and cohabitation – negatively related to the risk of union dissolution.

Conclusions: Companionship – that is, a joint lifestyle – seems to have an important role in couple relationships. Although the marital vow still divides couples in how they arrange their lives together, joint lifestyles seem to be equally important in keeping cohabiting and married couples together, suggesting that married and cohabiting couples do not differ in their social foundations.

Contribution: This study is one of the first to examine the relation between joint lifestyles and separation for cohabiting couples, and to use a longitudinal design with a prospective and sophisticated measure of joint lifestyles.

Author's Affiliation

Kirsten van Houdt - Stockholms Universitet, Sweden [Email]
Anne-Rigt Poortman - Universiteit Utrecht, the Netherlands [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» Editorial for Special Collection on New Relationships from a Comparative Perspective
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» The timing of parenthood and its effect on social contact and support
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» Why do intimate partners live apart? Evidence on LAT relationships across Europe
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» Income pooling strategies among cohabiting and married couples: A comparative perspective
Volume 30 - Article 55

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