Transition from Cohabitation to Marriage. The Role of Marital Attitudes in Seven Western and Eastern European Countries
Using longitudinal panel data from the Generations and Gender Surveys on 2,847 cohabiters from seven countries, we examine the role of marital attitudes in the transition from cohabitation to marriage and compare the strength of this association between Western and Eastern Europe. We expect a positive attitude towards marriage to increase the likelihood of cohabiters marrying. We also expect the association between personal attitudes and marriage formation to be weaker among cohabiters from Eastern Europe, due to stronger normative pressure to marry in contexts where cohabitation is less prevalent.
In both Eastern and Western European countries, we find a clear positive association between favourable views on marriage among cohabiters and their entry into marriage. Contrary to our expectations, we find evidence that this association is weaker in Western Europe. We discuss this finding in light of the greater postponement of marriage among Western European cohabiters, even among those with a positive attitude towards marriage, as well as the potentially greater significance of life course events and transitions that influence their decision to marry more strongly than is the case for their Eastern European counterparts.
This study extends the literature on the relationship trajectories of cohabiters by drawing attention to the normative context that may shape cohabiters’ opportunities and constrain behavioural choice in the marriage formation process. Ultimately, it contributes to an understanding of the consequences of the societal diffusion of cohabitation in Europe.
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