Advertisement

The Heterogeneity of Partnership Trajectories to Childlessness in Germany

  • Marcel Raab
  • Emanuela StruffolinoEmail author
Article

Abstract

In recent decades, childlessness has increased across many European countries. In addition to socioeconomic characteristics, having a partner is considered a prerequisite in most fertility studies. Yet, still little is known about the partnership biographies of childless women and men. We assess the heterogeneity in the partnership trajectories of childless persons in Germany and explore compositional differences of partnership trajectories by gender and education. We use data from the German Family Panel to reconstruct partnership biographies reflecting the occurrence and frequency of different partnership states (singleness, living apart together, cohabitation, marriage). The sample comprises women and men born 1971–1973 whose life courses are observed from age 18–40. Applying sequence and cluster analysis, we identify five patterns of partnership trajectories: (1) ‘Marriage’ (14.6%); (2) ‘Long-term cohabitation’ (11.8%) with one partner; (3) ‘Serial cohabitation’ (15.6%); (4) ‘LAT’ (18.8%), long-term/multiple living-apart-together relationships; and (5) ‘Single’ (39.3%), long-term singleness. Men are overrepresented in the ‘Single’ cluster, especially if highly educated. Women are more often married and more likely to experience long-lasting singleness or multiple LAT episodes when being highly educated. We speculate that theories predicting high levels of childlessness in contexts where gender norms and work-family policies do not account for the increasing gender equality in education and labor force participation might also explain differences in the pathways leading to childlessness. Generally, our findings point at a more elaborate conceptualization of childlessness that moves away from a binary cross-sectional indicator and set the ground for future cross-national comparisons.

Keywords

Childlessness Gender Education Partnership histories Sequence analysis 

Notes

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare the present work to be compliant with the Ethical Standards of the European Journal of Population. They also declare no conflicts of interest. Ethics approval is not required for this paper.

References

  1. Abbott, A. (2016). Processual sociology. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Aisenbrey, S., & Fasang, A. E. (2017). The interplay of work and family trajectories over the life course: Germany and the United States in comparison. American Journal of Sociology, 122(5), 1448–1484.  https://doi.org/10.1086/691128.Google Scholar
  3. Albertini, M., & Arpino, B. (2018). Childlessness, parenthood and subjective well-being. The relevance of conceptualizing parenthood and childlessness as a continuum. In European population conference 2018, Brussels.Google Scholar
  4. Baudin, T., de la Croix, D., & Gobbi, P. E. (2015). Fertility and childlessness in the United States. American Economic Review, 105(6), 1852–1882.  https://doi.org/10.1257/aer.20120926.Google Scholar
  5. Bernardi, L., Mynarska, M., & Rossier, C. (2015). Uncertain, changing and situated fertility intentions: A qualitative analysis. In D. Philipov, A. C. Liefbroer, & J. E. Klobas (Eds.), Reproductive decision-making in a macro–micro perspective (pp. 113–139). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  6. Berrington, A. (2017). Childlessness in the UK. In M. Kreyenfeld, & D. Konietzka (Eds.), Childlessness in Europe: Contexts, causes, and consequences (pp. 57–76). Cham: Springer.  https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-44667-7_3.Google Scholar
  7. Berrington, A., & Pattaro, S. (2014). Educational differences in fertility desires, intentions and behaviour: A life course perspective. Advances in Life Course Research, 21, 10–27.Google Scholar
  8. Brüderl, J., Drobnic, S., Karsten, H., Huinink, J., Nauck, B., Neyer, F. J., et al. (2018). The German family panel (pairfam). Cologne, ZA5678 Dat.  https://doi.org/10.4232/pairfam.5678.9.0.0.Google Scholar
  9. Brüderl, J., Garrett, M., Hajek, K., Herzig, M., Huyer-May, B., Lenke, R., et al. (2017). Pairfam data manual. Munich: LMU Munich.Google Scholar
  10. Buhr, P., & Huinink, J. (2017). Why childless men and women give up on having children. European Journal of Population, 33(4), 585–606.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-017-9429-1.Google Scholar
  11. Carmichael, G. A., & Whittaker, A. (2007). Choice and circumstance: Qualitative insights into contemporary childlessness in Australia. European Journal of Population/Revue européenne de Démographie, 23(2), 111–143.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-006-9112-4.Google Scholar
  12. Destatis. (2018). Statistik der Geburten.Google Scholar
  13. Diekmann, A. (2016). Der Einfluß schulischer Bildung und die Auswirkungen der Bildungsexpansion auf das Heiratsverhalten. Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 19(4), 265–277.  https://doi.org/10.1515/zfsoz-1990-0403.Google Scholar
  14. Eckhard, J. (2014). Theoretical Explanations of Increasing Childlessness - Divergent Approaches and theIntegrating Potential of the Frame Selection Theory. Comparative Populations Studies, 39(1), 49–72.  https://doi.org/10.12765/CPoS-2014-01en.Google Scholar
  15. Eckhard, J., Stauder, J., & Wiese, D. (2015). Die Entwicklung des Partnermarkts im Längsschnitt—Alters- und Kohortenunterschiede. KZfSS Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, 67(S1), 81–109.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11577-015-0316-7.Google Scholar
  16. Elzinga, C. H., & Liefbroer, A. C. (2007). De-standardization of family-life trajectories of young adults: a cross-national comparison using sequence analysis. European Journal of Population Revue européenne de Démographie, 23(3–4), 225–250.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-007-9133-7 .Google Scholar
  17. Esping-Andersen, G., & Billari, F. C. (2015). Re-theorizing family demographics. Population and Development Review, 41(1), 1–31.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1728-4457.2015.00024.x.Google Scholar
  18. Fiori, F., Rinesi, F., & Graham, E. (2017). Choosing to remain childless? A comparative study of fertility intentions among women and men in Italy and Britain. European Journal of Population, 33(3), 319–350.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-016-9404-2.Google Scholar
  19. Fleckenstein, T. (2011). The politics of ideas in welfare state transformation: Christian democracy and the reform of family policy in Germany. Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, 18(4), 543–571.  https://doi.org/10.1093/sp/jxr022.Google Scholar
  20. Fulda, B. E. (2016). The diversity in longitudinal partnership trajectories during the transition to adulthood: How is it related to individual characteristics and regional living conditions? Demographic Research, 35(1), 1101–1134.  https://doi.org/10.4054/DemRes.2016.35.37.Google Scholar
  21. Gabadinho, A., Ritschard, G., Mueller, N. S., & Studer, M. (2011). Analyzing and visualizing state sequences in R with TraMineR. Journal of Statistical Software, 4(40), 1–37.Google Scholar
  22. Goldstein, J. R., & Kreyenfeld, M. (2011). Has East Germany overtaken West Germany? Recent trends in order-specific fertility. Population and Development Review, 37(3), 453–72. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22167811.
  23. González, M.-J., & Jurado-Guerrero, T. (2006). Remaining childless in affluent economies: A comparison of France, West Germany, Italy and Spain, 1994–2001 Rester sans enfant dans des sociétés d’abondances: une comparaison de la France, l’Allemagne de l’Ouest et l’Espagne, 19994–2001. European Journal of Population/Revue européenne de Démographie, 22(4), 317–352.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-006-9000-y.Google Scholar
  24. Hart, R. K. (2018). Union histories of dissolution: What can they say about childlessness? European Journal of Population.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-018-9464-6.Google Scholar
  25. Hudde, A. (2018). Societal agreement on gender role attitudes and childlessness in 38 countries. European Journal of Population.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-017-9459-8.Google Scholar
  26. Huinink, J., Brüderl, J., Nauck, B., Walper, S., Castiglioni, L., & Feldhaus, M. (2011). Panel analysis of intimate relationships and family dynamics (pairfam): Conceptual framework and design. Zeitschrift für Familienforschung, 23(1), 77–100.Google Scholar
  27. Huinink, J., Kreyenfeld, M., & Trappe, H. (2012). Familie und Partnerschaft in Ost- und Westdeutschland. Eine Bilanz. In J. Huinink, M. Kreyenfeld, & H. Trappe (Eds.), Familie und Partnerschaft in Ost- und Westdeutschland. Ähnlich und doch immer noch anders (Zeitschrift für Familienforschung, Sonderheft 9) (pp. 9–28). Opladen: Barbara Budrich.Google Scholar
  28. Ivanova, K., Kalmijn, M., & Uunk, W. (2013). The effect of children on men’s and women’s chances of re-partnering in a European context. European Journal of Population/Revue européenne de Démographie, 29(4), 417–444.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-013-9294-5.Google Scholar
  29. Jalovaara, M., & Fasang, A. E. (2017). From never partnered to serial cohabitors: Union trajectories to childlessness. Demographic Research, 36(1), 1703–1720.  https://doi.org/10.4054/DemRes.2017.36.55.Google Scholar
  30. Kalmijn, M. (2013). The educational gradient in marriage: A comparison of 25 European countries. Demography, 50(4), 1499–1520.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-013-0229-x.Google Scholar
  31. Keizer, R., Dykstra, P. A., & Jansen, M. D. (2008). Pathways into childlessness: Evidence of gendered life course dynamics. Journal of Biosocial Science, 40(6), 863–878.  https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021932007002660.Google Scholar
  32. Köppen, K., Mazuy, M., & Toulemon, L. (2017). Childlessness in France. In M. Kreyenfeld, & D. Konietzka (Eds.), Childlessness in Europe: Contexts, causes, and consequences (pp. 77–95). Cham: Springer.  https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-44667-7_4.Google Scholar
  33. Kravdal, Ø., & Rindfuss, R. R. (2008). Changing relationships between education and fertility: A study of women and men born 1940–1964. American Sociological Review, 73(5), 854–873.  https://doi.org/10.1177/000312240807300508.Google Scholar
  34. Kreyenfeld, M., & Konietzka, D. (2014). Kinderlosigkeit in Deutschland. Theoretische Probleme und empirische Ergebnisse. In D. Konietzka, & M. Kreyenfeld (Eds.), Ein Leben ohne Kinder. Ausmaß, Strukturen und Ursachen von Kinderlosigkeit (pp. 11–44). Wiesbaden: Springer VS.  https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-531-94149-3_1.Google Scholar
  35. Kreyenfeld, M., & Konietzka, D. (2017a). Analyzing Childlessness. In M. Kreyenfeld, & D. Konietzka (Eds.), Childlessness in Europe: Contexts, Causes, and Consequences (pp. 3–15). Cham: Springer.  https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-44667-7_1.Google Scholar
  36. Kreyenfeld, M., & Konietzka, D. (2017b). Childlessness in East and West Germany: Long-term trends and social disparities. In M. Kreyenfeld, & D. Konietzka (Eds.), Childlessness in Europe: Contexts, Causes, and Consequences (pp. 97–114). Cham: Springer.  https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-44667-7_5.Google Scholar
  37. Lengerer, A. (2012). Die soziale Selektivität des partnerschaftlichen Zusammenlebens im Wandel. KZfSS Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, 64(2), 247–275.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11577-012-0168-3.Google Scholar
  38. Lesthaeghe, R. (2010). The unfolding story of the second demographic transition. Population and Development Review, 36(2), 211–251.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1728-4457.2010.00328.x.Google Scholar
  39. Long, J. S., & Freese, J. (2014). Regression models for categorical dependent variables using Stata (3rd ed.). College Station: Stata Press.Google Scholar
  40. McDonald, P. (2000a). Gender equity in theories of fertility transition. Population and Development Review, 26(3), 427–439.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1728-4457.2000.00427.x.Google Scholar
  41. McDonald, P. (2000b). Gender equity, social institutions and the future of fertility. Journal of the Australian Population Association, 17(1), 1–16.  https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03029445.Google Scholar
  42. McLanahan, S., & Percheski, C. (2008). Family structure and the reproduction of inequalities. Annual Review of Sociology, 34(1), 257–276.  https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.34.040507.134549.Google Scholar
  43. Merz, E.-M., & Liefbroer, A. C. (2012). The attitude toward voluntary childlessness in Europe: Cultural and institutional explanations. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74(3), 587–600.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2012.00972.x.Google Scholar
  44. Miettinen, A. (2010). Voluntary or involuntary childlessness? Socio-demographic factors and childlessness intentions among childless Finnish men and women aged 25–44. Finnish Yearbook of Population Research, (pp. 5–24). https://journal.fi/fypr/article/view/45051.
  45. Mynarska, M., Matysiak, A., Rybińska, A., Tocchioni, V., & Vignoli, D. (2015). Diverse paths into childlessness over the life course. Advances in Life Course Research, 25, 35–48.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.alcr.2015.05.003.Google Scholar
  46. Oppenheimer, V. K. (1988). A theory of marriage timing. American Journal of Sociology, 94(3), 563–591.  https://doi.org/10.1086/229030.Google Scholar
  47. Osiewalska, B. (2017). Childlessness and fertility by couples’ educational gender (in) equality in Austria, Bulgaria, and France. Demographic Research, 37, 325–362.Google Scholar
  48. Philipov, D., Liefbroer, A. C., & Klobas, J. E. (Eds.). (2015). Reproductive decision-making in a macro–micro perspective. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  49. Reynolds, A. P., Richards, G., de la Iglesia, B., & Rayward-Smith, V. J. (2006). Clustering rules: A comparison of partitioning and hierarchical clustering algorithms. Journal of Mathematical Modelling and Algorithms, 5(4), 475–504.Google Scholar
  50. Schneider, N. F. (2015). Familie in Westeuropa. In P. B. Hill, & J. Kopp (Eds.), Handbuch familiensoziologie (pp. 21–53). Wiesbaden: Springer.  https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-02276-1_2.Google Scholar
  51. Sobotka, T., & Testa, M. R. (2008). Attitudes and intentions toward childlessness in Europe. In C. Höhn, D. Avramov, & I. E. Kotowska (Eds.), People, Population Change and Policies: Vol.1: Family Change (pp. 177–211). Dordrecht: Springer.  https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-6609-2_9 Google Scholar
  52. Struffolino, E., Studer, M., & Fasang, A. E. (2016). Gender, education, and family life courses in East and West Germany: Insights from new sequence analysis techniques. Advances in Life Course Research, 29, 66–79.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.alcr.2015.12.001.Google Scholar
  53. Studer, M. (2013). Weighted cluster library manual. A practical guide to creating typologies of trajectories in the social sciences with R. LIVES Working Papers.  https://doi.org/10.12682/lives.2296-1658.2013.24.Google Scholar
  54. Studer, M., & Ritschard, G. (2016). What matters in differences between life trajectories: A comparative review of sequence dissimilarity measures. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society), 179(2), 481–511.  https://doi.org/10.1111/rssa.12125.Google Scholar
  55. Tanturri, M. L., Mills, M., Rotkirch, A., Sobotka, T., Takács, J., & Miettinen, A., Faludi, C., Kantsa, V. & Nasiri, D. (2015). State-of-the-art report. Childlessness in Europe. Families and Societies Working Paper Series (No. 32). http://www.familiesandsocieties.eu/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/WP32TanturriEtAl2015.pdf
  56. Thomson, E., Winkler-Dworak, M., Spielauer, M., & Prskawetz, A. (2012). Union instability as an engine of fertility? A microsimulation model for France. Demography, 49(1), 175–195.Google Scholar
  57. Tocchioni, V. (2018). Exploring the childless universe: Profiles of women and men without children in Italy. Demographic Research, 38(19), 451–470.  https://doi.org/10.4054/DemRes.2018.38.19.Google Scholar
  58. Trimarchi, A., & Bavel, J. Van. (2017). Education and the transition to fatherhood: The role of selection into union. Demography, 54(1), 119–144.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-016-0533-3.Google Scholar
  59. Waren, W., & Pals, H. (2013). Comparing characteristics of voluntarily childless men and women. Journal of Population Research, 30(2), 151–170.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s12546-012-9103-8.Google Scholar
  60. Wood, J., Neels, K., & Kil, T. (2014). The educational gradient of childlessness and cohort parity progression in 14 low fertility countries. Demographic Research, 31, 1365–1416.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of MannheimMannheimGermany
  2. 2.WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Research Group Demography and InequalityBerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations