Relationship Quality and Cohabitor’s Family Transitions. How Country Context Shapes (UN)Happy Couples’ Transitions to Marriage, Childbearing, and Partnership Dissolution.

Niels Blom , The University of Southampton
Brienna Perelli-Harris, University of Southampton

Does the quality of the partner relationship influence couple’s family transitions and does this differ between countries? Research on relationship quality and family transitions is scarce, even though it is an often presumed mechanism between social factors and couple transitions. We use a cross-national perspective to investigate several of European countries which differ in the level cohabitation is (non-)normative and how cohabitation is associated with disadvantaged positions. This context is expected to shape the way how relationship quality is associated with family transitions. We use the Generation and Gender Survey and UK Household Longitudinal Study, covering seven European countries (Austria, Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Netherlands, Sweden, and UK). We employ competing risk hazard models to follow respondents as they 1) transition from cohabitation into marriage, childbearing, or separation; 2) transition from marriage or cohabitation into parenthood; and 3) separate after having children. Preliminary analyses show that among cohabitors higher relationship quality increases the likelihood of marriage in Austria, Bulgaria, France, and the UK, but not in the Netherlands and Sweden. Instead, higher relationship quality is associated with childbearing in cohabitation Sweden, but not in other countries. Lower relationship quality is associated with higher risk of separation in all countries except the UK. In conclusion, high quality couples are more likely to marry in most countries, but in Sweden these couples seem to progress their relationship by having a child. Next steps include investigating the association between relationship quality and transitions from marriage or cohabitation into parenthood and separation after having children.

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 Presented in Session 99. Relationship Development