Academic journal article Demographic Research

Why Do Intimate Partners Live Apart? Evidence on LAT Relationships across Europe

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Why Do Intimate Partners Live Apart? Evidence on LAT Relationships across Europe

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The ways in which people structure their intimate relationships diversified across developed societies throughout the latter part of the 20th century. During most of the 20th century, marriage was the dominant relationship type. Since the 1970s, unmarried cohabitation has become more prevalent (Bumpass and Lu 2000; Kiernan 2004). In more recent years, increased attention also has been paid to people who have someone whom they consider to be an intimate partner, but who is not living with them - so-called LAT relationships (Strohm et al. 2009). Whether or not individuals choose this as a conscious, long-term strategy is the subject of increasing debate (De Jong Gierveld 2008; Duncan et al. 2013; Levin and Trost 1999; Roseneil 2006).

As yet, little is known about the prevalence of LAT relationships across developed societies, about the reasons why people opt for this arrangement, and about the characteristics of those in LAT unions. This paper aims to provide insight into the phenomenon of LAT unions for a range of European countries by addressing three questions:

1. How prevalent is having an intimate partner outside the household across a range of European countries?

2. Why do people opt for this living arrangement? Are there different types of LAT relationship by country?

3. What socioeconomic, demographic, and attitudinal characteristics are associated with whether or not an individual is in a LAT relationship, and how do those who are in LAT unions differ from those who are single, married, or in a cohabiting union? Do people in different types of LAT union differ with respect to these background characteristics?

Contrary to most previous studies (e.g., Castro-Martín, Domínguez-Folguers, and Martín-García 2008; Régnier-Lollier, Beaujouan, and Villeneuve-Gokalp 2009), we not only compare people in LAT relationships with people in coresidential unions, but also with singles (also see Strohm et al. 2009). A comparison of the profile of people in LAT unions with that of singles on the one hand and that of married and cohabiting people on the other hand may show whether LAT is an alternative to singlehood or an alternative to co-residential unions (Rindfuss and VandenHeuvel 1990).

We use cross-sectional data from the Generations and Gender Survey (GGS), a survey conducted in a large number of European and other developed countries (United Nations 2005; Vikat et al. 2007). The GGS offers a unique opportunity to examine cross-national differences in intimate relationships and covers both Western and Eastern European countries.

2. Background and hypotheses

2.1 The meaning of LAT relationships

Little is known about the meaning of LAT relationships in relation to other union statuses such as marriage, cohabitation, and singlehood. Most theories have focused on the choice between cohabitation and marriage, and thereby on the meaning of cohabitation (e.g., Bianchi and Casper 2000; Heuveline and Timberlake 2004; Klijzing 1992; Rindfuss and VandenHeuvel 1990). This literature sees cohabitation as an alternative to marriage, a normative stage in the marriage process, a trial marriage, or an alternative to singlehood. Studies of LAT relationships are more recent due, in part, to limited data on these unions (e.g., De Jong Gierveld 2004, 2008; Duncan et al. 2013; Evertsson and Nyman 2013; Haskey and Lewis 2006; Levin 2004; Régnier-Lollier, Beaujouan, and Villeneuve-Gokalp 2009; Roseneil 2006; Strohm et al. 2009).

The emerging literature on LAT suggests multiple reasons why people opt for LAT. Roseneil (2006) distinguishes those who are "gladly" apart, those who are "regretfully" apart, and those who are "undecided" about whether or not to live apart. Those gladly apart prefer not to live together, whereas those who are regretfully apart would prefer to live together but are living apart due to constraints, such as not being able to find affordable housing. More recently, Duncan et al. …

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