Partnership Histories and the Transition to Motherhood in Later Reproductive Ages in Europe

By Júlia Mikolai

Changing partnership experiences might accentuate women’s fertility postponement and increase the risk of remaining involuntarily childless. Previous research typically focused on current partnership status and a single country when studying the link between partnerships and first birth. We examine how current partnership status and partnership histories of women who were still childless at ages 30 or 35 are linked to later transition to motherhood in 12 European countries. Women born between 1953 and 1962 are analysed using data from the Harmonized Histories database. In western and northern European countries, women who married their cohabiting partner by age 30 have the highest probability of achieving a first birth between age 30 and 40, followed by directly married women. We find the opposite in southern European and post-socialist countries. Additionally, cohabiting women generally have smaller first birth probabilities than directly married women. In western and northern Europe, never-partnered women are the least likely to have a child by age 40, whereas in the remaining countries, it is women who are single following union dissolution who have the lowest first birth probabilities.


  • first birth
  • partnership histories
  • partnership status
  • childlessness
  • Europe
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