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Taking A Chance On Love

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In view of some of the views expressed on here about the risks of being with a partner, I thought some may be interested in this latest research from the ESRC...


Is cohabitation more or less risky than marriage? What does “security” mean in the context of modern “messy” lives? What are the implications for policymakers grappling with the problems of regulating different kinds of partnerships? These are some of the questions addressed in new research to be presented at a seminar on New Forms of Family: Risk, Intimacy and Relationships on March 14 as part of this year’s ESRC Social Science Week (10th to 19th March).

The seminar, which is organised by the ESRC Social Contexts and Responses to Risk Network, will examine how intimate relationships and partnerships are changing in the context of new patterns of employment, cultural expectations and social policy.

Professor Jane Lewis, from the Department of Social Policy at the London School of Economics, will present findings from her recent work on the perception of risk in cohabitation and marriage.

‘Social welfare and family law have traditionally been based on the assumption of a male breadwinner protecting women and children from risk.’ says Professor Lewis. ‘But cohabitation and divorce are now normal in northern Europe and the boundaries of intimate partnerships are very fluid. Our research suggests that many people see economic independence as necessary security for a partnership to flourish. The implication for policy is that enabling economic autonomy is likely to support rather than undermine personal relationships.’

The findings, which are based on an exploratory study of 63 people who were married, cohabiting or living-apart-together, suggest that people are prepared to take a chance on love. Most participants in the study said they were aware of the risk of being hurt but did not have concerns about the legal status of their partnership. There was no evidence that either cohabitation or marriage was perceived as a more risky option.

Most participants agreed that having children upsets the fragile balance of a relationship – particularly financially - and the findings suggest that women are more likely to compromise and take second turn when balancing work and family responsibilities.

‘The study is too small to produce policy recommendations, but it is clear that legislation is unlikely to succeed unless policymakers understand how people feel about the risks and benefits of marriage, cohabitation and parenthood,’ says Jane Lewis.

Other findings reveal that:

Entry into intimate relationships is seen as a private matter and a private risk. Any attempt to make people marry would meet with resistance.

Marriage is seen as “safer,” because it is more acceptable in the eyes of friends and family, not because of financial expectations

For further information, contact: Professor Jane Lewis on 020 7955 6754; e-mail: j.lewis@lse.ac.uk

Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby on 01227 827512 or e-mail p.f.taylor-gooby@kent.ac.uk

Alexandra Saxon or Annika Howard at ESRC, on 01793 413032/413119


This research will be presented at the seminar on New Forms of Family: risk, intimacy and intimate relationships at the Royal Academy of Engineering, 29, Great Peter Street London, 10.00-12.30, Tuesday 14 March, organised by the ESRC Social Contexts and Responses to Risk Network.

The research report Family Change, Intimate Relations and Risk was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Jane Lewis is Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics, London WC2A 2AE. The study is part of the programme of the ESRC Social Contexts and Responses to Risk Network directed by Peter Taylor-Gooby, University of Kent. Details: www.kent.ac.uk/scar

Methodology: The LSE findings are based on interviews with 63 people who were married, cohabiting or living apart-but-together.

The ESRC is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It provides independent, high quality, relevant research to business, the public sector and Government. The ESRC total expenditure in 2005/6 is £135million. At any time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes. More at www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk

Social Science Week is organised by the Economic and Social Research Council, and runs from March 10th to 19th, alongside National Science Week. It celebrates some of the very best British social science research, as well as highlighting the ways in which social science touches everyday lives. Press releases detailing some of the 60 varied events are available at www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/week

ESRC Society Today offers free access to a broad range of social science research and presents it in a way that makes it easy to navigate and saves users valuable time. As well as bringing together all ESRC-funded research (formerly accessible via the Regard website) and key online resources such as the Social Science Information Gateway and the UK Data Archive, non-ESRC resources are included, for example the Office for National Statistics. The portal provides access to early findings and research summaries, as well as full texts and original datasets through integrated search facilities. More at www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk

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  • 338 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?

      • down 5% +
      • down 2.5%
      • Even
      • up 2.5%
      • up 5%

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