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Eur J Popul. 1991 Sep;7(3):273-98.

The choice between a married or unmarried first union by young adults. A competing risk analysis.



In studying the process of union formation in the Netherlands, researchers performed a hazard model analysis of 590 men and women 16-26 years old who chose between marriage and unmarried 1st union in 1987-88. Entering a union depended on the type of union, age, and social factors such as education and work, living arrangements, religiosity, and educational level. The descriptive results reveal that by age 26 80% have ever entered a 1st union, 66% consensually and 33% by marriage. Multivariate analyses showed that social structural constraints and opportunities and personal preferences and values explained the choice of 1st union. Students were twice as likely to have cohabited unmarried, and 8 times less likely to marry than employed young adults. The unemployed however did not differ much from the employed in union formation. The explanation given is that the unemployed may believe their situation to be temporary, and marriage may actually improve their financial position. Living independently encourages the formation of a union, while those living at home are more likely to marry. The suitability of accommodations may affect the earlier union formation and transform a dating relationship into a union. There is a drop in marriage and unmarried cohabitation after age 21, which may be attributed to a group more strongly committed to independence and unwilling to enter a union. Religious influences affect the type of union such that religious young adults are less likely to enter a consensual union. In spite of the decline in religiosity throughout Europe, the effect is nonetheless strong. It was not confirmed that higher educational level would lead to a greater likelihood to enter a consensual union. Whether or not one is a student has a greater bearing on union formation. Women are more likely to enter a union and particularly at young ages. This was the only gender relationship. An extension of this research for the future would be to examine the extent to which cohort changes in union formation reflect social positions and to what extent changes in preferences.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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