Living apart together: comparing older adults in different relationship types

Edith E. Gray, Australian National University
Ann Evans, Australian National University
Anna Reimondos, Australian National University

Recent research on people in ‘living-apart-together’ (LAT) relationships shows that older adults are more likely to be in these relationships by ‘choice’. In comparison with young adults and those in middle adulthood, older adults were more likely to state that they made a definite decision to live apart, that they did not intend to live together within the next three years, and that they were unlikely to get married. They also had the longest duration times of LAT (Reimondos et al. 2011). Some researchers have recently suggested that people who opt for a LAT relationship do so because they value independence. Further, people who opt for LAT because they value independence tend to have more liberal views than people in other types of relationships and they tend to be higher educated and less religious. However, while many people lived apart for ideological reasons, it was also clear that others lived in these arrangements because of necessity (Liefbroer et al. 2011). This paper investigates the situation of people in LAT relationships compared with other relationships (or absence of). While it is clear from previous research that there are substantial numbers of people who live apart from their partner in Australia, little is known about their characteristics. This paper will contribute to understanding the types of people who live apart. Using HILDA data this paper compares older Australians who are in a LAT relationship with people who are married, cohabiting, and single in the following domains: (1) relationship histories; (2) attitudes; (3) socio-economic background; and (4) health and wellbeing. The findings have implications for the treatment of those in a LAT relationship as ‘single’ in models where relationship type is associated with outcomes.

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Presented in Session 30: Same-sex and Living Apart Together relationships