June 30, 2022

Why do people stay single?

Sociologist Dimitri Mortelmans (UAntwerp) received a prestigious grant from the European Research Council (ERC). With the ‘Singleton Project’, he’ll research ‘singleness’ in young adults.

The traditional life cycle of getting married and having children is mistakenly still looked upon as ‘the standard’. Research shows that by 2060, half of Europe’s population will be single, partly due to the ageing population, partly to the fact that many young people choose to remain single, or have problems finding the right partner.

How do young adults in industrialized countries enter relationships today? That’s the Singleton project’s topic. ‘In the classical approach, the developmental path of young adults seems to lead to cohabitation and/or marriage, but there is also a relationship path in which individuals experience difficulties finding the right partner, in maintaining a relationship or in which they make a conscious choice to remain single for longer periods of time’, says Professor Mortelmans. 

Small but powerful

The ‘Singleton path’ is characterized by a succession of relatively short-lived relationships. The central question in Mortelmans’s Singleton Project is why, how, when and who follows this alternative relationship path.

Firstly, Mortelmans will examine how dating histories and being single manifests in three different birth cohorts. Secondly, he will study how different young adults form, maintain and end relationships, and who experiences difficulties in doing so. Thirdly, the project examines the effect of social networks, education programs and career perspectives on the development of relationship paths. Finally, the project looks at the emergence of ‘single culture’ and discrimination against singles. The research will start in October 2023 and will last five years.

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