Marriage and separation risks among German cohabiters: Differences between types of cohabiter

Nicole Hiekel*, Aart C. Liefbroer, Anne Rigt Poortman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We propose a typology of different meanings of cohabitation that combines cohabiters’ intentions to marry with a general attitude toward marriage, using competing risk analyses to examine whether some cohabiters are more prone than others to marry or to separate. Using data (N = 1,258) from four waves of the German Family Panel (PAIRFAM) and a supplementary study (DEMODIFF), we compared eastern and western German cohabiters of the birth cohorts 1971–73 and 1981–83. Western Germans more frequently view cohabitation as a step in the marriage process, whereas eastern Germans more often cohabit as an alternative to marriage. Taking into account marital attitudes reveals that cohabiters without marriage plans differ from those with plans in their relationship careers, and also shows that cohabiters who plan to marry despite holding a less favourable view of marriage are less likely to realize their plans than cohabiters whose intentions and attitudes are more congruent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-251
Number of pages15
JournalPopulation Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2015


  • consensual unions
  • cross-cultural comparisons
  • event history analysis
  • family demography
  • Germany
  • longitudinal studies
  • marriage
  • separation


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