Singleton trajectories. Understanding new life course paths of young adults (SINGLETON)

The intellectual challenge that the Singleton project will tackle is identifying the relationship formation pathways of young adults in industrialized countries. This project departs from the currently couple centred research approach of young adulthood in which developmental pathways always seem to lead to Mount Marriage or Cohabitation Hill. In contrast, we argue that there is a fundamental hidden relationship pathway in young adulthood where individuals might be experiencing difficulties in finding the right partner, maintaining a relationship or where they make a deliberate choice to remain single and for longer periods.

This Singleton trajectory is characterized by a sequence of relatively short-lived committed relationships. The central question addressed in the Singleton project is therefore why, how, when and for whom this relationship trajectory manifests itself. Accordingly the project has four interrelated aims. A first aim is the empirical description of the share of Singletons in three birth cohorts. Second, the project will look at the internal dynamics of relationship formation, maintenance and dissolution from a multi-actor perspective to identify differences between young adults. In the third objective, the project will look into how social networks, educational trajectories and career prospects influence the development of relationship trajectories in young adulthood. A final aim will look at the macro level and incorporate the rise of a “single culture” as part of a new explanatory framework for understanding the Singleton trajectory. Methodologically, we apply a Longitudinal Explanatory Mixed Methods model (2 quantitative and 2 qualitative waves) concentrating on 3 cohorts in young adulthood. This project innovates on a theoretical and methodological level by integrating theories from various fields (demography, sociology and developmental psychology), redefining determinants and launching a much needed new research tradition in Single Studies.