The Changing Meaning of Cohabitation and Marriage
In the Netherlands, the social meaning of both marriage and cohabitation has changed. Cohabitation started as an alternative way of living, developed into a temporary phase before marriage, and finally became a strategy for moving into a union gradually. For women, the perception of marriage as a means of gaining economic security and independence from parents has weakened. The conclusion that both cohabitation and marriage have changed in nature over historical time raises the question whether or not historical fluctuations are present in the influence of forces underlying patterns of cohabitation and marriage. This article addresses the question whether or not individual past and current life-course experiences become increasingly important in explaining the differentiation of entry into marriage across female birth cohorts, and yet become decreasingly important in explaining the differentiation of entry into cohabitation across female birth cohorts. This question is examined using a non-proportional hazard model. Empirical evidence supports this hypothesis strongly, in that both past determinants such as family size or religion and current life-course determinants such as work or education change in their impact on cohabitation and marriage across birth cohorts.
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