New Paths to Couple Formation in Contemporary France

Marie Bergström, INED
Léonard Moulin, Ined

In France, as in other European countries, the age at first union formation has risen over the past decades, due to longer school enrolment. While the median age at first co-resident couple was 23,8 among the generation born in France in the beginning of the 1950s, it was 26 among the generation born in the beginning of the 1970s (Prioux, 2003). This tendency is often referred to as a postponement of couple formation. The purpose of the present study is to test whether this trend rather corresponds to a gradual transition into conjugality. Among young generations, it is indeed common to have experienced several romantic relationships before settling down with a partner. This however differs depending on gender and social background. We show the different paths that young generations take entering conjugality. To do so, we use the French survey “Study on individual and conjugal trajectories”, conducted in 2013-2014 (Ined-Insee). 7 825 people responded to the survey, answering questions regarding their current and past romantic relationship. We look at the conjugal life course, focusing on what happens during youth (18-30 years). We examine the nature, the duration, and the articulation of the successive periods that make up romantic relationships. In order to analyse trajectories in their complexity, methods of sequence analysis are used (Abbott and Hrycak, 1990). These methods are based on the calculation of a measure of distance between pathways that allows observing similarities and differences, from which a typology can then be deduced. The limited number of typical trajectories makes it possible to identify and study the regularities between trajectories. Then, using multinomial logit model, we seek to determine the extent to which the type of trajectory can be related to the socioeconomic characteristics of the individuals as well as the generation to which they belong.

Presented in Session 84: Partnership Dynamics across the Lifecourse