Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


In documenting the dramatic increase in divorce in recent decades, several observers have uncovered strong empirical associations between religiosity and marriage dissolution. As well, many studies show a substantial relationship between premarital cohabitation and the risk of divorce.;What is it about religiosity and cohabitation that explains these statistical links to divorce? The main objective of this inquiry was to answer this question by placing marriage dissolution within a sociological framework. Building on concepts and ideas developed in the sociological theory of Anthony Giddens, it was argued that the recent proliferation of "expert systems" of knowledge and technology in the area of human reproduction has rapidly altered the social context and motivations for childbearing and childrearing.;Specifically, the thesis developed the idea that reproductive individualism has emerged as an important motivational and normative basis of marriage and family formation in modern society. Moreover, the theory developed in the study identifies reproductive individualism as a variable that might account for the documented associations among religiosity, cohabitation and divorce.;Using data from the 1984 Canadian Fertility Survey, a single factor analytic scale measuring reproductive individualism was constructed. A series of hazard models of divorce were subsequently developed to investigate the issues raised by the thesis. The results of the inquiry show that reproductive individualism is a major predictor of the risk of marriage dissolution. Additionally, reproductive individualism entirely explains the relationship between premarital cohabitation and divorce. Finally, reproductive individualist attitudes account for much of the statistical relationship between religiosity and divorce.;The general conclusion of the inquiry is that theoretically-grounded concepts such as reproductive individualism are essential to understanding contemporary trends in social demography. However, the sociological relevance of reproductive individualism may extend well beyond recent changes in marriage and the family. Indeed, the theory developed in the thesis implies that reproductive individualism has great potential to legitimize the commodification of human life by new reproductive technologies.



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