A Causal Approach to Interrelated Family Events: A Cross-National Comparison fo Cohabitation, Non-marital Conception, and Marriage

Hans-Peter Blossfeld, Melinda Mills


One of the most important advances brought about by life course and event
history studies is the use of parallel or interdependent processes as explaining
factors in transition rate models. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate a
causal approach to the study of interrelated family events. Various types of
interdependent processes are described first, followed by two event history
perspectives: the ‘system’ and ‘causal’ approach. The authors assert that the
causal approach is more appropriate from an analytical point of view as it
provides a straightforward solution to simultaneity, cause-effect lags, and
temporal shapes of effects. Based on comparative cross-national applications in West and East Germany, Canada, Latvia, and the Netherlands, we demonstrate the usefulness of the causal approach by analyzing two highly interdependent family processes: entry into marriage (for individuals who are in a consensual union) as the dependent process and first pregnancy/childbirth as the explaining one. Both statistical and theoretical explanations are explored emphasizing the need for conceptual reasoning.

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