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  The extent to which a population marries. Marriage is important in determining demographic behaviour, particularly fertility (see Malthusian model) and family formation. The simplest nuptiality rate expresses the number of marriages celebrated (or the total number of persons marrying) in a given year as a ratio of the average number of persons alive in that year, expressed in parts per 1000. Consideration must also be given to two fundamental aspects of the marriage pattern: the intensity of nuptiality, expressed as the proportion of the population that is single at any one time and in certain age groups; and the precocity of marriage, expressed as age at first marriage for both sexes. Historical research has demonstrated the importance of marriage patterns in determining fertility changes and in influencing and being influenced by wider social and economic trends (Hajnal, 1965).

The contemporary world has seen fundamental changes in attitudes towards marriage, especially in the developed world. The availability of contraceptive methods, the acceptability of living alone after leaving the parental home and the financial ability to do so, the rise of cohabitation and of divorce, and changing economic and power relationships between men and women have radically altered marriage behaviour. This in turn affects the pattern of household formation with a greater variety of living arrangements and higher rates of transition from one household type to another (cf. housing studies). From the 1970s onwards marriage rates declined in all European countries, for example, and the average age of marriage rose. In many countries, marriage is no longer the necessary precursor to bearing children, though there is a great deal of variation: by 1991, some 30 per cent of births in the UK and France and 48 per cent in Sweden were non-marital compared with 9 per cent in Spain and 17 per cent in Ireland. (PEO)

Reference and Suggested Reading Hajnal, J. 1965: European marriage patterns in perspective. In D.V. Glass and D.E.C. Eversley, eds, Population in history. London: Arnold, 101-43. Hall, R. 1995: Households, families and fertility. In R. Hall and P. White, eds, Europe\'s population. Towards the next century. London: UCL Press, 34-50. Pressat, R. 1972: Demographic analysis. London: Edward Arnold; Chicago: Aldine, ch. 7.



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