From Union Formation to First Birth: The Role of Age at First Cohabitation in the Transition to Motherhood and Fatherhood

By Marie-Caroline Compans, Éva Beaujouan, Catriona Dutreuilh

Entering a union and having a first child are closely linked events, but social features which may be reflected in the age at union formation, are rarely discussed. Using data from the Étude des parcours individuels et conjugaux, or the EPIC survey (INED–INSEE, 2013–2014), this article examines the role of age at first cohabitation on the occurrence of a first birth and its timing, taking account of the characteristics of individuals and of unions formed between ages 17 and 40. Both men and women have a child more quickly if the union is formed after age 32. While births occur more quickly, permanent childlessness is more frequent among people who form the latest unions, close to the end of their reproductive life, than among those who enter a union at an earlier age. These results remain significant after controlling for employment status at the time of union formation, partnership status, and the partners’ characteristics. In addition to biological aspects, people who form a first union in their 30s may be less inclined to have children or may feel it is socially too late to start a family.

  • first union
  • first birth
  • age
  • fertility
  • EPIC
  • France
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