Individual Values as a Factor of Relationship Stability in Europe: A GGS Study

Dmitry Zakotyansky, Universite catholique de Louvain (UCL)

In this study the author uses GGS waves 1 and 2 panel data on 6 countries to analyze the impact of personal values and marital and gender attitudes from the GGS wave 1 on person''s relationship status in the GGS wave 2: with the same partner or with another oneno partner. Selected subsample consists of childless non-ever-married respondents at age 40 or younger who do have a partner but with whom they do not live in a household. A partnership status of these persons is further examined in the wave 2 data. Possible changes are recoded in two categories: the same partner (1) or another partnerno partner (2). Then author applies a logistic regression gender attitudes and values as independent factors, controlling for basic socio-demographic factors. The tested hypothesis proposes that persons with more traditional (as opposed to egalitarian) ideal of the family have higher chances of losing their partner and a combination of traditional perception of the family along with higher importance of personal (economic) independence leads to the highest chances of losing the partner in comparison to other combinations of these values. Preliminary results indicate that there is some evidence in support of this hypothesis.

Key question of the study is to find out if personal attitudes of a person can explain longitude outcome of his or her relationship after controlling for socio-demographic factors and relationship characteristics.


The present study has its roots in the phenomenon of the lowest-low fertility and growing permanent childlessness in many European and also non-European countries during last decades. About 28% of Western German women with higher education born from late 1950s to late 1960s have no children by the age 40 (Bujard, 2015). The numbers for Italian women with higher education aged 40-44 and born in 1965-1969 are the same, while highly educated Italian women of younger cohorts – born in 1975-1979 – and aged 30-34 do have childlessness even at the level of more than 65%, which is 2 times higher comparing to the 1965-1969 cohort at the same age (Tanturri et al., 2016). According to Neyer (Neyer and Hoem, 2008), about 35% of Austrian women born in 1955-1959 who have socioeconomic PhD are permanently childless. The number for Swedish women of the same cohort is about 32%, although the numbers for Austrian and Swedish women who have a PhD degree in any field in general are 29% and 19% respectively. In Finland, Austria, Switzerland, UK and The Netherlands about 20% of all women born in 1965-1969 are projected to be permanently childless, and 15% of women of the same cohorts in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and France (Tanturri et al., 2015). In Japan, level of permanent childlessness is expected to reach 30% for women of the 1970 birth cohort (Hara, 2008).

In many countries (mainly of Western and Southern Europe, but also of Southeast Asia) prevalence of childlessness is constantly growing for last several decades and is becoming more and more serious issue, impacting fertility level and accelerating the process of demographic ageing. As was pointed out in many papers (Neyer and Hoem, 2008; Mills et al., 2008; Kertzer, 2009; Neyer et al., 2013; Basten et al., 2014; Ruckdeschel, 2016), prevalence of childlessness is especially high – as well as fertility level is especially low – in countries that are most socially conservative and that were for long time promoting (or keeping) asymmetrical gender roles – via social policies or the lack of ones. Despite the value of the marriage and children still high and relatively stable in many countries (Sobotka, 2014; Esping‐Andersen & Billari, 2015), majority of population still having a family ideal of about 2 children (Testa, 2012) and less than 10% of women aged 18-40 years intending to remain childless (voluntary) in European countries (Miettinen et al., 2015) – still a failure to find a suitable and steady partner remains a main reason for being childless (Koropeckyj-Cox & Call, 2007; Hara, 2008; Keizer, 2008). Therefore turning the quest for low fertility and growing childlessness in the direction of permanent singlehood and relationship stability.

In virtually all EU countries mean age at first birth approaches 30 nowadays. And so female labor participation rates and higher education enrollment rates are also growing and converging (Christiansen, 2016; UNESCO, 2010), indicating about slowly but steadily growing gender equality in every country (Inglehart & Norris, 2003). Yet the chances of remaining permanently single are growing too, which makes it important to study the specific connection between the values and relationship stability – a key prerequisite for having children.

  • Hypothesis: people with less gender-equal family ideals have lower chances of finding a stable partner – and therefore prevalence of such values can explain some variance in permanent singlehood;
  • Explanation: asymmetry between personal freedom values (person about him or herself - internal) and family gender values (person about his or her ideal partner and ideal family - external). Result: people with high importance of personal freedom but also high importance of gender-unequal family ideal have lower chances for having a stable and non-conflicting relationship. Most widespread – in Southern Europe, German-speaking countries and Japan.
  • Assumption: persons who are permanently single probably also have less stable relationship during earlier stages of their life
  • Data: 6 GGS countries, 1 and 2 waves, respondents who are:
  • 40 years old or younger
  • Didn’t have experience of cohabitation or marriage or birth of a child in their life
  • Have a partner with whom they do not live in a household (presumably an early stage of development of any romantic relationship, hardly an intended LAT-relationship)
  • Have a physicalbiological possibility of having a child
  • Method: Logistic regression

Presented in Session 1233: Posters