Free to stay, free to leave: Insights from Poland into the meaning of cohabitation

Mynarska, Monika and Baranowska-Rataj, Anna and Matysiak, Anna (2014) Free to stay, free to leave: Insights from Poland into the meaning of cohabitation. Demographic Research, 31 (36). pp. 1107-1136. ISSN 1435-9871

Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Germany (CC BY-NC 2.0 DE).

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Background: Previous studies have shown that in Poland cohabitation is most of all a transitory step or a testing period before marriage. Polish law does not recognize this living arrangement and it has been portrayed as uncommitted and short-lived. However, few studies have investigated what cohabitation means for relationships, especially with respect to freedom. Objective: We explore how young people in Poland understand and evaluate freedom in cohabitation. We investigate how they view the role freedom plays in couple dynamics and in relationship development. Methods: We analyze data from focus group interviews conducted in Warsaw with men and women aged 25-40. We identify passages in which opinions on cohabitation and marriage are discussed, and use bottom-up coding and the constant comparative method to reconstruct different perspectives on the issue of freedom in cohabitation. Results: The respondents argued that cohabitation offers the partners freedom to leave a union at any time with few repercussions. On the negative side, the freedom related to cohabitation brings insecurity, especially for young mothers. On the positive side, it offers relaxed conditions for testing a relationship, grants partners independence, and encourages cohabitors to keep their relationship interesting, precisely because it is fragile and easy to dissolve. Conclusions: The open nature of cohabitation offers benefits to partners, but does not provide secure conditions for childbearing. As long as the couple is not planning to have children, however, the benefits of cohabitation are likely to be seen as outweighing the disadvantages.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This research was funded by Brienna Perelli-Harris's ERC CHILDCOHAB starting grant during the period 2011-2013 andby the National Centre of Research and Development (Poland) within the research project "Family Change and Subjective Well-Being" (FAMWELL) financed under the Programme LIDER. We are very grateful to Paulina Trevena, who moderated the FGs and performed the first round of coding of the material. The article benefited from discussions with Focus on Partnership team members during workshops. We are grateful to Brienna Perelli-Harris, Laura Bernardi and two anonymous reviewers of Demographic Research for their valuable comments.
Divisions: Departments > Sozioökonomie > Sozialpolitik > Demographie > Wittgenstein Centre
Version of the Document: Published
Variance from Published Version: None
Depositing User: Mohammad Al Hessan
Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2017 13:45
Last Modified: 05 May 2018 00:39
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