The process of union formation, revisiting theories and survey data: A comparison between INED's two surveys: "Le choix du conjoint" (1959) and "La formation des couples" (1984)

Pierre Martinot-Lagarde, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

The objective of this study is to demonstrate the need for an historical approach to the sociological and demographic study of marriage and the family. A particular focus is placed on the transition from adolescence into marriage of French young adults born after 1900. Data are taken from two surveys of assortative mating developed by the French demographic institute, INED. The first, Le choix du conjoint—The choice of a spouse—was undertaken in 1959. The second, La formation des couples—The process of union formation—in 1984. Two parallel investigations are conducted. First, theories used to construct the two surveys are re-examined. Second, empirical evidence from the two surveys helps delineate major changes in the routes taken by young adults into union. The first survey had been influenced by sociological preoccupations that preceded W.W.II or immediately followed it. They are derived from eugenics, populationist concerns, social morphology and anthropology. The study of cohabitation outside marriage was left unexplored by French scientists after 1890. Concepts of strategies and habitus developed by Pierre Bourdieu were instrumental in the development of new approaches to the understanding of this phenomenon. Empirical evidence can be assembled from the two INED surveys. The paths to enter union have continuously diversified during this century. Individuals born after 1914 started dating while still in school. For individuals born after 1948, cohabitation sharply increased, and delayed childbearing became more frequent. The lengthening of schooling offered women an alternative to marriage and a chance to acquire social status. Two conclusions can be derived: new evidence can be gained from old data; survey research is embedded in social theories that cannot be ignored at a time when more data are made available to social scientists. ^

Subject Area

Sociology, Individual and Family Studies|Sociology, Demography

Recommended Citation

Martinot-Lagarde, Pierre, "The process of union formation, revisiting theories and survey data: A comparison between INED's two surveys: "Le choix du conjoint" (1959) and "La formation des couples" (1984)" (1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9913497.
http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI9913497

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