Europeans increasingly boycotting marriage

11th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 11, 2006 (AFP) - Marriage is on the wane all over Europe, as couples prefer "new conjugal practices" such as living together, according to a French study published Thursday.

PARIS, May 11, 2006 (AFP) - Marriage is on the wane all over Europe, as couples prefer "new conjugal practices" such as living together, according to a French study published Thursday.

But although Europeans overall are marrying less, people in some countries are marrying a lot less than in others, as national differences across the continent remain marked, the study by France's National Institute of Demographic Studies (INED) found.

The survey of 20 European countries found three main reasons for the trend: people tend to form stable, long-term relationships later in life; they are more inclined to move in together without getting married; and they are less bothered about cementing their union in marriage later on.

Moreover, the study shows that couples in Europe break up more readily than they used to.

Despite experiencing relationships and cohabitation before marriage, couples are apparently no better equipped to get along once they do tie the knot.

In general, the report says, a higher cohabitation rate is matched by a higher divorce rate.

"New conjugal practices appeared in the late 1960s in Scandinavia, notably in Sweden, and then gradually spread across Europe," notes the study's author, France Prioux.

"But although the trends are going in the same direction everywhere", she adds, "there is still great variety in how couples live, and how long they stay together, from country to country."

In the Mediterranean region, people are traditionally more inclined to continue living with their parents for longer, a trend that is on the rise.

Often, they move out only when they get married, so emancipation coincides with coupledom — there is less likely to be an in-between, 'singleton' period.

Among women born in the mid-1960s, only 60 percent had flown the family nest by age 25 in Spain, and only two-thirds in Italy and Portugal, compared with 98 percent in Sweden.

Unmarried couples who live together remain the exception in Mediterranean countries, and most marriages are what is known as 'direct': the couple does not move in together until after the wedding.

And while the proportion of cohabitations that ultimately lead to marriage has fallen dramatically in Scandinavia — less than a tenth of Swedish couples tie the knot after living together for two years — it has risen in Spain and Italy, showing that "these countries remain attached to the institution of marriage," according to Prioux.

The duration of relationships is on the decline all over Europe, but their average length still varies markedly from country to country, with the north-south divide again very much in evidence.

In 2003, more than half of Swedish, Belgian and Finnish marriages could be expected to end in divorce, as against less than a fifth in Greece and Italy.

Between those extremes, France "is beginning to look more and more like the Nordic countries," Prioux notes, while Germany and Austria "also seem to have adopted unmarried cohabitation as a norm, while remaining keen on marriage, especially when the couple has children."

Eastern Europeans tend to marry young, but they too "are moving towards more and more cohabitation, albeit to widely varying degrees, depending on the country," the report said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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