How Alternatives Affect the Development of Non-Cohabiting Partnerships: A Multidisciplinary Perspective

Richard Preetz , University of Oldenburg
Andreas Filser, Institute for Employment Research (IAB)

This study investigates how the availability of potential partners affect the development of non-cohabiting partnerships. The research question addresses how transitions to cohabitation or separation are influenced by both partners alternatives. This is the first study that investigates the role of alternatives for non-cohabiting partnerships. Based on a multidisciplinary theoretical perspective with assumptions from demographic, sociological and evolutionary theories the role of alternatives for relationship development is highlighted. Demographic and sociological theories suggest gender-neutral effects of alternatives with an increasing risk of separation when alternatives are high. Evolutionary theory suggest gender-specific effects with an increasing risk of separation when men have more alternatives and an increasing chance to cohabitation when women have more alternatives. To test these predictions, we use combined data from waves 1-7 from the German Family Panel (pairfam) and official population data. The overall sample include 906 partnerships and the analyses are differentiate according to three different age groups (18-24; 25-35; 36-44). We use multilevel time-discrete event history modelling with the competing risks (1) remain in a living apart together relationship, (2) cohabitation or (3) separation. Alternatives are measured by age specific sex ratios at the district level. Results show significant effects of alternatives for couples in early adulthood. The chance to cohabitation increases if women have many and men have few alternatives. These gender-specific effects become insignificant in later age cohorts. Results also show that the transition to separation is not affected by both partners alternatives.

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 Presented in Session 99. Relationship Development