How Does Cohabitation Change People’s Attitudes Towards Divorce?

Martin Kreidl, Masaryk University
Zuzana Zilincikova, Masaryk University

In this paper, we study if (and how) living in an unmarried cohabitation alters attitudes towards divorce. Using panel data from the first two rounds of Generations and Gender Surveys from 9 countries and applying within-person attitude change models, we show that exposure to an unmarried co-residential union makes people more tolerant towards divorce, whereas exposure to marriage increases the more traditional view. We also show that not only entry to a cohabitation, but more importantly the time spent in cohabitation alters the attitude (each month of exposure contributes to a shift in attitudes). Cohabitation thus plays a dual role in the course of the Second Demographic Transition: its rise stems from more liberal attitudes and values regarding family life. Yet, experience with cohabitation also serves as a catalyst for a value change and further contributes – at the level of an individual – to a shift towards a less traditional normative standpoint.

Presented in Session 5: Changing Family Values and Behaviour