University of Southampton


Center for Demographic Studies (Barcelona)
University of the Philippines
Princeton University
Cornell University

IUSSP Secretariat

International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP)

Council Liaison

Australian National University

New patterns of family formation are emerging around the globe. In some regions, such as Europe and the Americas, cohabitation and childbearing within cohabitation have increased rapidly over the past few decades, sometimes reflecting a long tradition of nonmarital unions. In other areas, such as China, Japan, Israel and the Philippines, cohabitation is just starting to emerge, surprising scholars who thought that the marital regime was immutable. Yet the ways in which these new family behaviors are emerging differs dramatically depending on context. In some countries, for example Sweden and Norway, marriage is often postponed until after childbearing, while in others, such as Japan and China, premarital cohabitation has increased, but nonmarital childbearing is still considered a taboo. And in other parts of the world, cohabitation may be a marginal behaviour, but marriage is changing in other ways, possibly being delayed or foregone due to modern social and economic realities.


The emergence of these behaviors may have implications for individuals and societies. The rise of cohabitation and separation may lead to greater life uncertainties, and potentially exacerbate inequality. Increases in non-marriage may leave a larger group disaffected and vulnerable, especially at older ages. As a consequence, recent patterns of partnership formation may be having substantial effects on not only on population composition, but also on future well-being. On the other hand, the new behaviors may be a reaction to changing social norms, shifting values, and/or increased globalization. Changes in the family may simply be part of the normal process of societal development – indeed reflecting greater gender equality - and not a cause for alarm. Further research is needed to provide insights into the underlying explanations for the new trends and to what extent these changes are altering societies. 


This panel will bring together researchers from around the world to discuss these new behaviors and their consequences. The panel follows up on the IUSSP nuptiality panel (2011-2015), which convened conferences on first union patterns and divorce and produced two special collections. The nuptiality panel covered a wide variety of behaviors, but emphasized changes in the tempo and quantum of more conventional behaviors (e.g. marriage and divorce). We will focus on more flexible forms of partnerships, such as cohabitation, living-apart-together relationships, and repartnering. The panel’s main goal is to address theoretical explanations for changes in family formation in cross-national perspective, and to assess the consequences for populations and societies. Overall, we aim to gain a better understanding of which explanations are universal and which are unique.

Programme of activities

Report for the 2021 IUSSP General Assembly

Second International Seminar on New and Emerging Family Forms around the World

Manila, Philippines, January 20-21, 2020

International Seminar on New and Emerging Family Forms around the World

Barcelona, Spain, 21-23 March 2018