Expectations for family transitions in young adulthood among the UK second generation

Publication type

Research Paper


Ann Berrington

Publication date

Series Number



This paper explores whether family transitions among descendants of post second-world-war immigrants are converging towards those of white British young adults by examining family formation expectations among 16-21 year-olds collected within the 2009-2015 waves of Understanding Society. We ask: Do current adolescents’ cohabitation, marriage and parenthood expectations differ by ethnic group? Are differences similar for men and women? Are ethnic differences mediated by individual or parental socio-economic characteristics? We find that expectations for marriage and parenthood are unanimously high, but that there is greater uncertainty among white British and black Caribbean adolescents as to the age at which these transitions will occur. We find large ethnic differences in expectations for cohabitation, especially for women. There is evidence for a divergence in expectations within the south-Asian community. Second-generation Indians have lower expectations for marriage and higher expectations for cohabitation than second-generation Bangladeshis or Pakistanis. Ethnic group differences remain when religiosity, parental background and individual characteristics are controlled. Further research is required regarding the mechanisms which underlie the differential transmission of family formation attitudes across ethnic minority groups.




Migration, Young People, Family Formation And Dissolution, Ethnic Groups and Life Course Analysis