Marriage as a subjective choice – changing attitudes towards formal unions in the lowest-low fertility country

Iga Sikorska, Warsaw School of Economics

Polish society represents traditional family values with marriage remaining constantly the dominant form of a relationship and cohabitation rate at the very low level (on average around 3%). During years of democratic regime the number of marriages decreased by about 25% which was accompanied by postponement of marriage, decreasing stability of relationships and enormous increase in the number of divorces. Those signs provoke to thinking about reasons for such a change especially considering that marriage remains first step towards independence in the transition to adulthood process. Assuming that not only the objective determinants shape the process of union formation but the subjective attitudes as well, the aim of the analysis is to develop the set of distinctive perceptions of marriage characterized by the individual norms and values associated with formal relationship. The author using two Polish Retrospective Surveys 2001 and 2006 attempted to distinguish various attitudes towards marriage based on the subjective evaluation of importance of traditional values and incentives, socio-cultural norms attributed to marriage, division of household duties and mutual relations between spouses as well as perception of divorce and individual aspirations. To deal with the latent construct of combinations of norms and values expressed in qualitative scale the explanatory latent class analysis was applied. The study was extended to test the expected changes in time and the age effects as well as the influence of age-dependant life’s experience ie., experiencing formal relationship, having children, opinion on cohabitation, religiosity. Considering different paths of transitioning to adulthood, especially culturally driven male-breadwinner model of family, separate models for males and females were estimated. As hypothesized, a map of distinct perceptions of marriage was created, including various traditional as well as modern and destandardized approaches. Expected age and life’s experience effects were confirmed, counter to expectations little effect of time was revealed.

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Presented in Session 82: Ideals, values, and beliefs on family formation