A Context of 'Non-Marriage': Non-Marital Unions in the Transition to Adulthood in South Africa

Abigail Harrison, Brown University

Recent scholarship describes a rising age of marriage throughout sub-Saharan Africa. A demographic feature unique to southern Africa is an age of marriage delayed into the late 20’s. In South Africa, this coincides with the relative absence of formal marriage, which occurs at a median age of 26.8 years. This paper examines the context of ‘non-marriage’ in South Africa, reviewing definitions, levels and trends in formal marriage, as well as factors that shape current changes surrounding marriage during the transition to adulthood. Further, qualitative data are presented on the types of non-marital unions that arise in relation to changing marital patterns. This paper is intended to lay the groundwork for a longer term research endeavor aimed at examining the factors that shape dynamic processes related to the formation, evolution and dissolution of young women’s sexual and romantic partnerships – both marital and non-marital - over the young adult lifecourse.

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Presented in Poster Session 5