Gender, Cohabitation and Martial Dissolution: Are changes in Irish family composition typical of European countries?
In the early 1990s, the Irish Republic experienced a watershed in sexual morality with the introduction of legalisation on divorce, contraceptives, right to information on abortion and the decriminalisation of homosexuality. This was accompanied by decreasing family sizes and an increase in non-martial births and cohabitation. The aim of this paper is to examine Irish family practices since the instigation of this demographic transition in order to determine whether Irish family practices have become typical of European patterns. Using the European Community Household Panel for waves 1 to 7 (1994 to 2000), Irish family compositions are firstly described and compared with four other European countries: Belgium, France, Italy and the Netherlands. Secondly, a life event approach is used to clarify what factors affect marital dissolution for women in these countries such as martial duration, employment, presence of children and age at first marriage. While Irish households had larger family sizes, there were no significant differences for the risk of marital separation for Irish women relative to women in other European countries. Despite Irish demographic changes occuring much later than in other western European countries, by the turn of the 21st century, Irish family composition was similar to the rest of Europe.
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