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Committing to marriage? The role of marriage attitudes and gender equality among young cohabiters in Sweden

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Abstract: Marriage is commonly perceived as a more committed form of union than cohabitation. Individualization perspectives suggest that this makes couples refrain from marriage, while gender perspectives propose that gender equality within couples may increase the willingness to commit to a partner through marriage. We address these differing standpoints by studying the role of commitment and gender equality for marriage formation among cohabiting men and women born in Sweden 1968-1980. We use survey data from the 2003 Young Adult Panel Study to examine how cohabiters perceive the level of commitment in cohabitation versus marriage, as well as gender equality in their current relationship, and link this to population register data showing their propensity to marry up to 2007. Men and women, with and without children, are more likely to marry if they believe that marriage demonstrates seriousness but less likely to marry if they see marriage as more difficult to leave than cohabitation. Living in a gender equal relationship seems positively related to getting married although the association depends on the measure used. Whether gender equality moderates the association between marriage attitudes and marriage formation remains unclear. In conclusion, commitment can both encourage and discourage marriage formation depending on what aspect of commitment is addressed, and gender equality may play a role in this association, but further investigation is needed.


The Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, grant number 2012-0646




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