Investigating living-apart-together (LAT) relationships using a life course approach

Anna Reimondos, Australian National University
Ann Evans, Australian National University
Edith E. Gray, Australian National University

Using a life course approach we investigate living-apart-together relationships; that is, intimate relationships where the partners involved do not coreside. Research on the nature and pattern of contemporary relationship formation and dissolution has almost exclusively focused on unions such as cohabitation and marriage in which the two partners share a common household. However, there is evidence that a substantial proportion of the population does not in fact live with a romantic partner. In this paper we describe the characteristics of individuals in non-residential unions and investigate whether these unions are a stepping stone towards cohabitation, or whether they are more permanent arrangements. Using data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (2005) survey, we estimate that 24 per cent of the population aged 18 and over that is not cohabiting or married identify themselves as being in an intimate ongoing relationship. While non-residential unions are most prevalent among young people, they are experienced by individuals at all stages of the life course including by single parents and previously married people aged 45 and over. We find that the meaning of these relationships varies greatly by life course factors such as age, and previous relationship history. While the younger generations frequently anticipate moving into a common residence with their partner in the future, among the older generations living apart from a partner appears to be a more permanent arrangement allowing a combination of both intimacy and autonomy.

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Presented in Session 7: Life course