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The impact of cohabitation without marriage on intergenerational contacts: A test of the diffusion theory

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  • Nazio, Tiziana
  • Saraceno, Chiara

Abstract

In the literature, cohabitation rather than marriage is presented as an indicator of weakening intergenerational ties, either as a cause or an effect. In this paper we compare the frequency of face to face and phone contacts between parents and their married and unmarried children living with a partner in two countries - Italy and the UK - where the incidence of cohabiting instead of, or before, marrying is very different. Our analysis of empirical evidence, based on an ordered category response multilevel model, does not support the hypothesis that in Italy, where cohabitation is still an exception, differences in parent-adult children contacts between cohabitant and married children are much greater than in the UK, where cohabitation is more common and since a longer time. While in the UK cohabitation does not seem to have an impact on frequency of contacts, in Italy, cohabitation only increases the (marginal) proportion of those who do not visit and lowers slightly that of those who visit on a daily basis against weekly or monthly, but not the frequency of phone contacts. Also the hypothesis that duration of cohabitation makes a difference is not supported. The main difference we found is that cohabitant couples in Italy have a slight tendency to live farther away from their parents than married ones. This affects frequency of face to face contacts. These findings support the thesis that in both countries cohabitation and marriage are becoming increasingly similarly accepted patterns of partnership formation, which do not affect in distinct ways intergenerational relationships, although the differential residential choices of married and cohabitant couples in Italy remains an issue to be explained. Findings also support the thesis that, in Italy, cohabiting instead of marrying is still to some extent a polarized phenomenon: in the majority of cases it is supported, if not rendered possible, by parents, while in a small minority it is accompanied by estrangement.

Suggested Citation

  • Nazio, Tiziana & Saraceno, Chiara, 2010. "The impact of cohabitation without marriage on intergenerational contacts: A test of the diffusion theory," Discussion Papers, Research Professorship Demographic Development, Social Change, and Social Capital SP I 2010-402, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbdds:spi2010402
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Fiona Steele & Constantinos Kallis & Heather Joshi, 2006. "The formation and outcomes of cohabiting and marital partnerships in early adulthood: the role of previous partnership experience," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 169(4), pages 757-779.
    2. Fiona Steele & Constantinos Kallis & Harvey Goldstein & Heather Joshi, 2005. "The relationship between childbearing and transitions from marriage and cohabitation in Britain," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 42(4), pages 647-673, November.
    3. John Ermisch & Marco Francesconi, 2000. "Cohabitation in Great Britain: not for long, but here to stay," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 163(2), pages 153-171.
    4. Chiuri, Maria Concetta & Jappelli, Tullio, 2003. "Financial market imperfections and home ownership: A comparative study," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 47(5), pages 857-875, October.
    5. Ermisch, John & Di Salvo, Pamela, 1997. "The Economic Determinants of Young People's Household Formation," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 64(256), pages 627-644, November.
    6. Alessandro Rosina & Romina Fraboni, 2004. "Is marriage losing its centrality in Italy?," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 11(6), pages 149-172, September.
    7. Norman Braun & Henriette Engelhardt, 2004. "Diffusion Processes and Event History Analysis," Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, Vienna Institute of Demography (VID) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, vol. 2(1), pages 111-132.
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