The Meaning of Marriage Vis-à-Vis Childbearing in Comparative Perspective

Jennifer A. Holland, University of Southampton and Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)

Across the United States and Europe, increasing shares of births occur outside of marriage. Consequently, some have suggested that marriage is decoupling from the childbearing process and may be becoming an outmoded institution. However, it is likely that the presence of children is still linked to marriage. Moreover, across Europe and the United States, even when children are born to unmarried parents, a large proportion will experience marriage of their parents (Heuveline and Timberlake 2004; Perelli-Harris et al. 2012). This paper extends Holland’s (2013) marriage typology, linking the timing of marriage, childbearing, and cohabitation. The meaning of marriage is organized around six ideal types: Direct Family Forming, Post-Cohabitation Family Forming, Conception-Related Legitimizing, Birth-Related Legitimizing, Reinforcing and Capstone marriage. Using data from the Harmonized Histories, covering 12 European countries and the United States, I demonstrate both continuity and change in the context of marriage in cross-national perspective.

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Presented in Session 32: Partnerships and Fertility