Risk-avoidance or utmost commitment? Dutch focus group research on cohabitation and marriage

N. Hiekel, R. Keizer

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    BACKGROUNDDutch adults grew up in a highly individualized country, characterized by high divorce rates, which may have influenced their views on cohabitation and marriage.OBJECTIVEWe examine Dutch adults‘ perceptions of how similar or different cohabitation and marriage are, whether they believe that cohabitation would be a strategy to avoid the risk of divorce, as well as their views on why people marry in individualized societies.METHODSWe analyze seven focus group interviews with 40 Dutch participants, collected in 2012 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.RESULTSMany participants discussed differences and similarities between cohabitation and marriage in a context of high divorce rates, and frequently viewedcohabitation as a risk-reduction strategy. At the same time, marriage was often seen as ―the real deal, in terms of legal arrangements, but also as a symbol of utmost commitment. Less educated participants viewed more financial advantages in cohabitation compared to marriage, and felt more strongly about the symbolic value of marriage than their highly educated counterparts. There was strong consensus that there is not, and should not be, a social norm to marry.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)311-340
    Number of pages30
    JournalDemographic Research
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


    • cohabitation
    • marriage
    • focus group
    • Rotterdam
    • Netherlands
    • perception
    • commitment
    • risk avoidance
    • SSCI

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