Indicators of Child, Family, and Community Connections, Companion Volume of Related Papers. The New Chronology of Union Formation: Strategies for Measuring Changing Pathways



Steven L. Nock
University of Virginia
November 2003


In the short span of half a century, the pathways to union formation in America have become much less predictable. And a greater variety of intimate unions now exists than in the past. It is currently impossible to understand the wide range of intimate relationships because we lack appropriate data. Nor is it possible to measure the customary expectations associated with different types of relationships. The development of mutual commitment is the most crucial dynamic dimension in the pathway to stable unions. Therefore it is now essential to have additional information about how commitment develops in the new landscape of union formation options. This paper outlines a strategy to answer three questions. 1) What types of relationships now exist in America? 2) How do these relationships resemble, and differ from traditional monogamous heterosexual marriages? and 3) How do these relationships foster or impede the development of commitment sufficient to sustain the couple?

Paper prepared for
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, HHS
for the contract, Indicators of Child, Family and Community Connections,
(Contract no. HHS-100-01-0011 (05).)

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