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Gender, Cohabitation and Martial Dissolution: Are changes in Irish family composition typical of European countries?


  • HEFFERNAN Catherine


During the 20th century, Western Europe and the United States experienced two demographic trends, knows as the demographic transitions. Though initiated in the 19th century, much of the first demographic transition encompassed a movement from high to low mortality and a decline in fertility rates in the early 20th century (Bourgeois-Pichat, 1981). By the 1930s, the average birth rate was 2 children per woman (Coleman, 2000). After a hiatus of rising fertility rates in the post World War II years, known as the ‘baby boom’, a second demographic transition commenced in the latter 3rd of the century. This was marked by a further decline in fertility rates and the growth in use of contraceptives and abortion, which enabled the birth of only desired children (Bourgeois-Pichat, 1981). The birth rate has been continually falling since the 1970s and is now below replacement level in many western countries (Chesnias, 1996: Courtney, 1986). In Mediterranean countries, such as Spain and Italy, which are usually labelled as traditional family orientated Catholic countries, fertility rates have been approximately 1.2 children per woman since the early 1990s (Chesnais, 1996). The second demographic transition has also been fuelled by changes in relation to the family unit. “Since 1960 we have seen a weakening of the normative imperative to marry, remain married, to have children, to restrict intimate relations to marriage and to maintain separate roles for males and females” (Thornton, 1988:873). Throughout the western societies, there have been augmented rates of divorce, cohabitation and premarital sex. Marital rates have decreased, accompanied by a higher age at first birth and rising rates of non-marital births (Coleman, 2000; Coleman, 1999). Furthermore there has been increased participation of women in the labour force and a subsequent erosion of the traditional mode of the male breadwinner family (Lewis, 2001; Harding, 1984).

Suggested Citation

  • HEFFERNAN Catherine, 2005. "Gender, Cohabitation and Martial Dissolution: Are changes in Irish family composition typical of European countries?," IRISS Working Paper Series 2005-03, IRISS at CEPS/INSTEAD.
  • Handle: RePEc:irs:iriswp:2005-03

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    Cited by:

    1. STRAPCOVA Katarina & VOICU Bogdan & VOICU Malina, 2006. "Housework and gender inequality across Europe," IRISS Working Paper Series 2006-11, IRISS at CEPS/INSTEAD.
    2. Alessio Fusco & Paul Dickes, 2008. "The Rasch Model and Multidimensional Poverty Measurement," Palgrave Macmillan Books, in: Nanak Kakwani & Jacques Silber (ed.), Quantitative Approaches to Multidimensional Poverty Measurement, chapter 3, pages 49-62, Palgrave Macmillan.
    3. VAN KERM Philippe, 2006. "Comparisons of income mobility profiles," IRISS Working Paper Series 2006-03, IRISS at CEPS/INSTEAD.
    4. TANOVA Cem, 2006. "Using Job Embeddedness Factors to Explain Voluntary Turnover in Five European Countries," IRISS Working Paper Series 2006-04, IRISS at CEPS/INSTEAD.
    5. SIROVATKA Tomas & VALENTOVA Marie, 2006. "The Legitimacy of Redistribution: the Czech Republic in International Comparison," IRISS Working Paper Series 2006-12, IRISS at CEPS/INSTEAD.

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