How alternatives affect the development of non-cohabiting partnerships: A multidisciplinary perspective

Richard Preetz, Socium Research Center On Inequality And Social Policy, University Of Bremen, Germany
Andreas Filser, Institute for Employment Research (IAB)

Today, nearly every intimate relationship starts with a phase of non-cohabiting. While previous studies emphasize the highly transitory character of those partnerships, our understanding of why some couples move in together or separate is still emergent. The aim of our study is to investigate how the availability of alternative partners affects the development of non-cohabiting partnerships over time. We apply a multidisciplinary theoretical perspective, integrating social exchange theory and assumptions from demographic opportunity and evolutionary theory. We use waves 1 – 11 from the German Family Panel (pairfam) and link couple data with official population register data from the German Federal Statistical Office (2887 couples). We measure both partners’ alternatives using age-specific sex ratios on the district level. Using age-differentiated multilevel time-discrete event history models, we analyze LAT couples’ transitions with competing risks of (1) remaining in a LAT relationship, (2) cohabitation, and (3) separation. Results suggest that LAT partnerships are mainly affected by the availability of alternative partners in young adulthood. The chance to move in together is highest when women have many alternatives, but men do not. Results suggest the need for a multidisciplinary theoretical view of sociological, demographic, and evolutionary assumptions to understand the role of alternatives.

Keywords: Family demography, Life course analysis, Population geography, Event history analysis

See paper.

  Presented in Session 64. Different Pathways to Residential and Non-residential Partnerships