Couple relationship formation has changed dramatically in Australia in recent decades. Marriage rates have declined and the age at which people marry for the first time has increased.
Couple relationship formation has changed dramatically in Australia in recent decades. Marriage rates have declined from a crude marriage rate of 7.1 (marriages per 1,000 in the population) in 1988 to a rate of 5.5 in 2007. In contrast, the age at which people marry for the first time has increased, from 27.8 years for men and 25.4 years for women in 1988 to 29.6 and 27.6 years respectively in 2007. A high proportion (77% in 2007) of those who do marry have cohabited with their spouse prior to the marriage (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2008).
Of interest is whether the changing patterns of couple formation reflect changes in attitudes towards marriage. This issue was briefly addressed in a recent Family Relationships Quarterly article (Qu & Weston, 2007). Their analyses of data from the Housing, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey in 2005 showed that Australian men's and women's attitudes towards marriage and cohabitation were generally positive. The notion of marriage as an outdated institution was largely rejected even by younger respondents (aged 15-29 years), with more than two-thirds disagreeing (73%) or strongly disagreeing (65%) with the statement. Cohabitation by those who do not intend to marry was also perceived as acceptable by the majority of respondents, although those in older age groups were more likely than the younger groups to disapprove of this arrangement. Men's and women's responses to both items were similar.
While the HILDA survey provided some interesting insights into the attitudes of Australians to marriage and cohabitation, only two items relating to these issues were included in this survey. A more in-depth examination of young adults' attitudes towards marriage (and cohabitation) can be obtained by looking at responses to the 2006 Australian Temperament Project (ATP) survey.
In this article, the authors report the responses to these questions of the young men and women who participated in this survey.