Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Rachel Margolis


The transition to adulthood is a much longer and less structured process for more recent generations than for those who came of age before the 1960s. Median age at first marriage has been increasing, cohabitation has become more prevalent, the role of cohabitation in the partnering process has changed, and young adults tend to live with their parents longer. This dissertation presents three studies of how new cohorts of Canadian youth are leaving home and starting their conjugal lives. I apply event history techniques using the 2011 General Social Survey, the most recent available data on the union and home-leaving histories of Canadians born between 1930 and 1996.

In Chapter 2, I examine changes over time in the type of first unions Canadians form, either marriage or cohabitation, and I compare changes in age at first marriage and age at first union. I find that although Canadians born after 1970 are more likely to cohabit with their first partner than Canadians of previous generations, they are not delaying their transition to partnership. In Chapter 3, I examine changes over time in the outcomes of first premarital unions formed between 1947 and 2010, and how the risk factors associated with first union outcomes have changed over time. First unions formed through cohabitation in the 2000s are no less stable than those formed in previous periods but unions formed more recently are less likely to transition into legal marriage. I also find that group differences in the propensity to transition to marriage have increased over time. In Chapter 4, I use in-depth interviews with young men certified in the skilled trades to explore their perceptions about how their educational choices affected their transition to adulthood and I use nationally representative data to compare these perceptions to their home-leaving and partnering behaviours. I find that tradesmen tend to leave home and partner at younger ages than their peers, but that they marry at older ages than those who completed college or university. My findings contribute to our understanding of the ongoing changes in the transition to adulthood.