New Research

Reasons for Marriage in Sweden In many countries around the world, the meaning of marriage has changed dramatically over the past decades. From being an important and even crucial component of a successful life, marriage is increas­ingly seen as one option among many. Nowhere is this more true than in Nordic countries like Sweden, in which most couples experience long cohabitation periods before marriage, and many forego it altogether. Nonetheless, important distinctions remain, and researchers from the University of Stockholm seek to better understand the relationship between couples’ intentions to marry, and whether those intentions become reality. “In most Western countries,” the authors begin, “the normative expectations among young adults to marry is declining . . . but this has not meant that marriage is disappearing as an important union form; in fact, marriage rates in the Nordic countries have increased in recent years.” Decisions about whether or not to marry are still made, and thus the authors seek to understand which partner’s influence is more important in this decision. The focus on Sweden is illuminating, as it is “a country often noted as a forerunner in the second demographic transition away from tradition and towards more secular and individualistic norms and behavior.” As background, the authors summarize other research on marriage intentions from around the world, but they conclude that “the literature is not consistent on whose intentions are most important.” They also reiterate that in Sweden, there are few formal incentives (financial or otherwise) to marry; yet, as elsewhere, marriages in Sweden are still more stable than cohabiting unions. To conduct their study, the researchers gleaned their data from a nationally representative sample of men and women born in 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1980, resulting in a final group of 521 cohabiting couples. They also sought information from the main respondent’s coresident partner. The researchers asked both individuals if they intended to marry, taking into account education levels and the presence of children or childbear­ing intentions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the researchers found that those couples in which both partners intended to marry were the most likely to actually do so, and those in which neither partner intended to marry the least likely. The researchers also found that education made a difference. In more educated households, “there was no statistically significant difference between couples in which both partners intended to get married and those in which only the woman intended to get married.” In other words, in such households, the woman’s opinion mattered more in situations where she but not her partner intended to marry. In less educated households, the opposite was true. It was the man’s intention to marry that made more of a difference. The researchers speculate that “Women’s stronger influence on decisions in
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