Journal Article

The rise in divorce and cohabitation: Is there a link?

Over the past decades, divorce and cohabitation have increased dramatically throughout Europe. Divorce has fundamentally altered the institution of marriage from a life-long union to one that may dissolve. Cohabitation allows couples to live together without undertaking the vows of marriage, but also allows couples to avoid the potentially higher costs of divorce. Thus, divorce and cohabitation seem to be intrinsically linked. We theorize how the increase in divorce may be linked to the increase in cohabitation at the macro, meso, and micro levels. Using focus group data, we explore how divorce may have changed attitudes and beliefs concerning marriage and cohabitation. We then investigate whether survey data and official statistics provide evidence consistent with a link. While exogenous factors have been important for the increase in cohabitation, we argue that the divorce revolution has been a catalyst for the cohabitation boom. 

Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council. Brienna Perelli-Harris is Associate Professor of Demography, University of Southampton and a member of the ESRC Centre for Population Change. Ann Berrington is Professor of Demography and Social Statistics, University of Southampton and a member of the ESRC Centre for Population Change. Nora Sánchez Gassen is Research Fellow in Demography, University of Amsterdam. Paulina Galezewska is Research Officer, Office for National Statistics, United Kingdom. Jennifer A. Holland is Lecturer in Social Statistics and Demography, University of Southampton and a member of the ESRC Centre for Population Change.