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Corpus for the study of hundred years of couple formation in France – CECHIC

Submission summary

Contemporary transformations in the couple and in the family count among the major social changes observed in recent decades. Numerous sociologists have studied these changes and two sociological surveys have been carried out in France to understand the process of couple formation and to identify its social dimensions. The first, "Choice of spouse" conducted in 1959 by Alain Girard, showed for the first time in France that the choice of a partner did not simply obey the random laws of sentimental attachment, but was an eminently social phenomenon (Girard, 1964). Homogamy, i.e. the fact that spouses come from similar social backgrounds, was revealed to be the most salient characteristic of couple formation.

Twenty-five years later, in a different social context, Michel Bozon and François Héran followed on from Girard with a survey on "Couple formation" (1983). As well as confirming the permanent nature of homogamy, the survey findings revealed the important role of meeting places and of categories of perception in the social construction of homogamy.

Since then, transformations in the family and in private life have continued, and even amplified, but no new survey specifically designed to study couple formation has been conducted. Yet several related studies point to the need for an update on the situation in France today.

The CECHIC project has been set up with the following aims:
- to extend and update previous work on couple formation by launching a new study to explore recent transformations in French conjugal behaviour (notably: the growing frequency of separation and of periods spent without a partner, the redefinition of the place of marriage and the growth of PACS civil unions, the transformations of social homogamy in the context of rapidly expanding new technologies, etc.);
- to focus more especially on conjugality in terms of its evolution over time (couple formation, but also separation process, periods of life without a partner) and in all its forms;
- to place the three surveys in perspective with a view to gaining historical and sociological insight into a century of couple formation in France;
- to conduct qualitative interviews and to analyse historical interview material that places the spotlight on emblematic couples, both past and present, with a view to developing a sound archive;
- to disseminate and draw value from the data by setting up a dissemination group whose purpose will be to publish articles for the scientific community and the general public.

Project coordination

arnaud REGNIER-LOILIER (Institut national d'études démographiques) –

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


Ined Institut national d'études démographiques

Help of the ANR 400,000 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2012 - 36 Months

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