Is Marriage ‘Just a Paper’? Focus Group Perceptions of Cohabitation and Marriage in the Philippines

Bernice Kuang , University of Reading

Due to cultural inclination toward familism, cohabitation in Asia is often framed as a prelude to marriage. Growing cohabitation in the Philippines suggests views of cohabitation are evolving. Previous qualitative studies of cohabitation have focused on Western contexts, from individualistic perspectives. Using focus groups, I examine perceptions of cohabitation and marriage in the Philippines to investigate the role of individualistic or family-centric tendencies. Respondents viewed cohabitation and marriage similarly, in terms of practical and emotional benefits, and evaluated relationships based on how their children would be affected. Respondents viewed cohabitation as a preferable response to nonmarital pregnancy, enabling co-parenting without commitment to marriage. The high valuation of personal fulfilment in relationships and the tolerance of a variety of family forms imply individualistic views, yet the child-centric nature of relationship decisions and valuation of religion also suggest persistence of tradition and familism, demonstrating the complexity of these family changes.

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 Presented in Session 21. Public Policy, Normative Values, and Cohabitation