Cohabitation and Commitment: Is Cohabitation Really Indistinguishable from Marriage in Norway and Sweden?

Eva Bernhardt, Stockholm University
Turid Noack, Statistics Norway
Kenneth Aarskaug Wiik, Statistics Norway

The Scandinavian countries are often cited as examples of societies where cohabitation is common and largely indistinguishable from marriage. However, an overwhelming majority of young cohabiting couples in both Sweden and Norway expect to get married, and most of them actually do. This might be a signal to others, and to each other, of serious commitment to the relationship. Thus we hypothesize that some ‘distinction’ still remains. In this paper, we take advantage of recent survey data from the two countries to analyze several dimensions of ‘commitment’ in co-residential relationships. Controlling for a number of demographic, socio-economic and attitudinal variables, including length of relationship and presence of children, married couples are found to be significantly different from cohabiting couples on all three dimensions, namely seriousness, relationship satisfaction and break-up plans. Thus they are more serious about and satisfied with the relationship, and less frequently have plans to dissolve the union.

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Presented in Session 71: Cohabitation