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Abstract

Background: Previous research has concentrated on the quantum and timing of partnership statuses during the transition to adulthood, but it has however remained unclear how partnership trajectories unfold and how trajectories interdepend. It is furthermore unknown how individual characteristics and regional living conditions relate to the type of partnership trajectory an individual experiences.

Objective: By studying longitudinal partnership trajectories in a sequence analysis, this article examines the types of partnership trajectories that are observable between the ages of 15 and 40. It furthermore asks how individual characteristics and regional living conditions relate to the sequencing, timing, and quantum of partnership transitions. It finally shows how the turbulence in partnership trajectories relates to these factors.

Methods: I analyze the 1971-1973 birth cohort in the German Family Panel (pairfam).

Results: Partnership trajectories split up into four patterns. Educational level, gender, and ethnic background significantly influence the probability of experiencing one of these partnership trajectories. Urban residents experience greater diversity in partnership statuses and are single for longer periods than rural residents. Twenty-six years after Germany’s unification, socialization in eastern or western Germany still matters: Eastern Germans are more likely than western Germans to remain in a cohabitation until they are 40.

Contribution: This article presents novel evidence on the typical partnership trajectories of a recent cohort. It shows that partnership histories are closely linked to membership in a social group and socialization in an institutional setting. Only some social groups are prone to experiencing turbulent partnership histories.