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Partner Relationships, Residential Relocations and Housing in the Life Course (PartnerLife)

  • Principal Investigators: Prof. Dr. Michael Wagner (University of Cologne), Prof. Clara H. Mulder (University of Groningen, Population Research Centre), Dr. Hill Kulu (University of St Andrews, School of Geography and Sustainable Development)
  • Research Assistant in Cologne: Dr. Meike van Damme, Dr. Sandra Krapf (until 2017)
  • Funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) -  Open Research Area in Europe for the Social Sciences
  • Duration in Cologne: 2014 - 2019
  • Website: PartnerLife Project


Partner relationships, residential relocations and housing are crucial to people’s well-being and are known to be connected with each other. Many aspects of this connection, however, have remained under-researched or unexplored thus far: living-apart-together next to co-residential partnerships, long-term effects, mutual causality, full trajectories rather than one-at-a-time events, and the impact of the contextual background. The aim of the research is to gain insight into the interactions between partner relationships on the one hand, and housing and residential relocations on the other, as they develop through people’s life courses and as they are situated in the social and institutional contexts of Germany, the UK and the Netherlands. We acknowledge the complexity of these interactions in the sense of mutual causality and long-term versus short-term effects. The overarching research question is:

How do partner trajectories and residential trajectories develop in relation to each other in people’s life courses, and how are these trajectories and the interactions between them related to the contextual backgrounds of Germany, the UK and the Netherlands?

We approach partner relationships in a more comprehensive way than usual. We do not only study co-residential partnerships (cohabitation and marriage) but we also investigate non-coresidential or living-apart-together (LAT) relationships, and we address relationship quality besides the formation, dissolution and transformation (from LAT into co-residential) of partnerships. With regard to residential trajectories, we study the quality and ownership status of housing (owner-occupancy versus other tenures) and relocations. We do not only examine critical partnership transitions in people’s lives and their relationships to housing changes; we go beyond the ‘one life-event at a time’ approach and analyze partnership and housing changes over the lives of individuals to gain a deeper understanding of how family and housing trajectories evolve and interact in the people’s lives.

We will derive and test hypotheses from various micro-level theories, including rational-choice theory and bargaining models, and develop hypotheses on the macro-level impact of welfare regimes and housing markets as well. We use large-scale longitudinal datasets for these three countries. We will analyze these using a variety of standard and advanced longitudinal methods, including multilevel event history analysis, sequence analysis and dyadic models. Our results will greatly enhance the scientific insight into partner trajectories and residential trajectories in the life courses of linked individuals. Comparing three different national contexts will lead to new insights as well.