Grasping the diversity of cohabitation: Fertility intentions among cohabiters across Europe

N. Hiekel, T. Castro-Martin

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The authors examined the association between different meanings of cohabitation and fertility intentions. Using data from the Generations and Gender Surveys on 5,565 cohabiters from 9 European countries (Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Norway, Romania, and Russia), they proposed a cohabitation typology based on attitudes toward marriage, intentions to marry, and perceived economic deprivation. Despite substantial variation in the prevalence and types of cohabiting relationships across Europe, cohabitation has become a living arrangement within which childbearing intentions are commonly formed and at times carried out. The authors found that the meaning that cohabiters attached to their union influenced significantly their short-term fertility intentions, net of other covariates. Cohabiters who viewed their unions as a prelude to marriage were the most likely to plan to have a child in the near future, both in Western and Eastern European societies. The association between fertility intentions and marriage intentions was particularly strong among cohabiters who do not as yet have children in common, but it was also present in a more muted form among cohabitating parents. The findings suggest that, although marriage and childbearing are becoming less closely linked life events, they are not disconnected decisions for a large majority of cohabiters across Europe. Keywords: cohabitation; cohabitation typology; Europe; fertility intentions; Generations and Gender Surveys
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489-505
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • cohabitation
  • cohabitation typology
  • Europe
  • fertility intentions
  • Generations and Gender Surveys
  • SSCI


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