Living-apart-together in Britain: context and meaning
The article draws on two Office of National Statistics’ Omnibus sample surveys to provide the demographic context for living-apart-together. 1 The second part of the paper begins to explore the meanings of this form of partnership through interviews conducted with a sub-sample of respondents to the second survey, conducted in April 2004. The exploratory study complicates our understanding of the range of partnership statuses, which in turn has implications for policymakers grappling with whether and how to regulate different statuses in different ways. We conclude that living-apart-together is a significant form of partnership in Britain, and that it may take place at different points in the lifecourse. We explore the idea that this form of partnership further signals the spread of ‘selfish individualism’ and a ‘flight from commitment’. We find instead that living-apart-together represents a different kind of shared life to those involved from that they perceive to characterise co-residential relationships.(Published Online May 31 2006)
1 The Omnibus sample surveys for this project were funded by the ONS and by the ESRC (grant no. L326253054). The ESRC grant also supported the qualitative research, and we are grateful to Sophie Sarre and Jennifer Burton, who organised and undertook the interviews.