Intimate relationship transitions, gender, and political participation and interest
Swiss Foundation for Research in Social Sciences Swiss Foundation for Research in Social Sciences Lausanne, Switzerland
Sociology/ICS Utrecht University Utrecht, Netherlands
Following from theories on social connectedness and social capital, transitions into and out of marriage can be expected to have an impact on people´s societal engagement. Although it is known that married individuals tend to be more politically involved than unmarried individuals, there has not been much attention for the impact of the transition into marriage, nor has there been any attention for changes in political involvement following the transition into separation or divorce.
This study takes a life course perspective, focusing on marriage and separation as events that alter one´s structural position in society and enhance social connectedness and social capital. We hypothesize that the transition into marriage or cohabitation increases people´s political interest and participation, where as the transition into separation goes together with a decrease in political interest and participation.
Furthermore, gender differences are anticipated. Women are socialized toward a role that is more private, whereas men are socialized more strongly toward public roles. Becoming a wife and mother intensifies the pressure on women to specialize in the private sphere. This leads to the expectation that after marriage women´s political participation might increase less, or even decrease, compared to men.
Using longitudinal data from Switzerland (Swiss Household Panel, waves 1999 and 2007), we tested whether the transition into and out of marriage and cohabitation changes political interest and voting frequency. Preliminary findings confirm our expectation that a transition out of marriage negatively effects political interest and voting frequency. A transition into marriage does not effect political participation or interest. Yet, gender interaction models confirm our ideas about the transition into marriage for women, showing a decrease in political interest and voting frequency after marriage or cohabitation. An increase in political interest and voting frequency was not found among men after marriage or cohabitation.