Love, marriage, then the baby carriage? Marriage timing and childbearing in Sweden

Elizabeth Thomson, Stockholm University and University of Wisconsin-Madison
Jennifer A. Holland, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)

Some scholars claim that marriage is an outmoded institution, decoupled from the childbearing process in Sweden. Indeed, more than half of all Swedish children are born outside of marriage. However, it is likely that the presence of children is still linked to marriage, as the vast majority of children born to cohabiting couples will experience the marriage of their parents. The temporal ordering of childbearing and marriage may be informative as to the meaning of marriage. Marriage timing is structured around four possible meanings of marriage as a Family Forming, Legitimizing, Reinforcing and Capstone institution. An analysis of register data covering those born in Sweden between 1950 and 1977, residing in Sweden, and unmarried and childless at age 18 (N = 2,984,757) reveals that Family Forming marriage (prior to a birth) is the dominate marriage type across cohorts, although there is an emerging trend toward Capstone marriage (after the birth of two or more children). Results demonstrate a continued link between childbearing and marriage, although the ordering of these events may be changing for some subpopulations.

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Presented in Session 105: Changing unions and childbearing