To Cohabit or to Marry? Insights from Focus Group Research across Europe and Australia

Brienna Perelli-Harris, University of Southampton
Monika Mynarska, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University

Although researchers have studied the cross-national increase in cohabitation using quantitative data, few have investigated it using qualitative data. In this study, we use focus group research to compare the meaning of cohabitation and marriage in ten settings in Europe and Australia. Collaborators conducted up to eight focus groups in each country, coded each discussion, and produced a standardized country report. The first and second author coded the reports and compared results across countries. Here we present the most compelling findings from the project. We find striking differences in the way cohabitation and marriage are discussed in each country. However, three main concepts emerge in all settings - commitment, testing, and freedom. Cohabitation continues to be a testing ground for marriage and differs in its level of commitment and emphasis on freedom. In most countries, cohabitation has become a way of preserving the emotional value and long-term future of marriage.

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Presented in Session 212: Cohabitation and Marriage