Study title
COUPLES - Social Stratification, Cohesion and Conflict in Contemporary Families (1998-2011)
Ref study 12547
Study language English
Contributing institutions
  • Vulnerability
  • Networks
  • Longitudinal
  • Couples
  • Families
  • Conjugal life
  • Lifecourse
The data-set corresponds to a three-wave longitudinal study:

wave 1 - 1998
wave 2 - 2004
wave 3 - 2011
Geographical space
The data was collected in Switzerland (50% German-speaking part; 30% French-speaking part; 20% Italian-speaking part).
  • Switzerland
COUPLES (Social Stratification, Cohesion, and Conflict in Contemporary Couples) is a longitudinal survey composed of three waves (1998, 2004 and 2011), which aims to investigate how couples organize their conjugal and family life over the life course, by taking into account the configurations of close ties (family and friendship networks) in which they are embedded. If on the one hand, we aim to understand the impact of life transitions and critical events on conjugal dynamics and partners’ networks; on the other hand, we want to explore how couples’ networks shape the conjugal dyad in terms of functioning (e.g., role differentiation), but also in terms of psychological (e.g., depressive symptoms) and conjugal vulnerability (e.g., separation thoughts) of both partners.

In 1998, a national representative sample of 1534 couples were interviewed by telephone (CAPI) through a questionnaire which covered several dimensions of conjugal and family life. Both partners were interviewed separately and invited to participate some years later. In 2004, a short version of the questionnaire was applied only to women belonging to this initial sample (N=1420). In 2011, after the inclusion of this survey in the national centre of research LIVES (IP 208), the original couples were re-interviewed, by applying a more complete questionnaire. Besides the original couples, 486 individuals were interviewed for the first time (cohort refreshment), as well as the new partners of the individuals who did not remain together between 1998 and 2011 due to separation, divorce or widowhood (N=25). Therefore, 2341 individuals belonging to 1838 couples (exceptionally in this wave, we allowed the inclusion of incomplete households, meaning that only one partner participated, even if the individual was living in couple).

The data-set covers a wide range of objective and subjective indicators organized along several dimensions: attitudes to conjugal life (autonomy vs. fusional attitudes), family and conjugal practices (e.g., organization of household tasks), conjugal outcomes (e.g., frequency of separation thoughts), parent-child relationship (e.g., frequency of conflict), networks’ composition (eg., number of friends) and structure (e.g., density of emotional support), psychological functioning indicators (e.g., frequency of depressive symptoms), but also social stratification indicators (e.g., income). This survey represents an important contribution for the study of family life in contemporary societies, by providing longitudinal and dyadic data on couples, but also valuable information on the configurations of personal networks in which couples are embedded in their everyday lives. The IP208 is currently preparing the 4th wave, which will be carried out in the beginning of 2017.
Methods (description)
Methods (instruments)
  • Standardised interviews - by telephone
Replicated study No
  • Widmer, Eric D.; Schicka, Manuela; Ernst Staehli, Michèle; Le Goff, Jean-Marie; Levy, René. 2012. If I had known our couple turned that way, I would not have stopped working. Sociologia e Politiche Sociale. Vol. 15, Special Issue 2012, pp. 29-49. Online: 10.3280/SP2012-SU3003
  • Widmer, Eric D.; Giudici, Francesco; Le Goff, Jean-Marie; Pollien, Alexandre. 2009. From Support to Control. A Configurational Perspective on Conjugal Quality. Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 71, n° 13, pp. 437-448. Online: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2009.00611.x
  • Pollien, Alexandre; Widmer, Eric D.; Le Goff, Jean-Marie; Giudici, Francesco. 2008. Que promettent les styles d’interactions? Une approche sociologique de l’intimité conjugale. Revue Suisse de Sociologie, vol. 34, n° 3, pp. 493-506. Online:
  • Widmer, Eric D.; Levy, René; Giudici, Francesco. 2007. Les styles d’interactions conjugales: quel pouvoir prédictif?. In: Burton-Jeangros C. Widmer E. Lalive d’Epinay C. (eds). Interactions familiales et constructions de l’intimité. Paris, L’Harmattan, pp. 301-310.
  • Kellerhals, Jean; Widmer, Eric D.. 2007. Social stratification, cohesion and conflict in contemporary families. In: Bonvalet, C. and Ogg, J. (Eds). Measuring family support in Europe. Southern Universities Press, pp. 161-172.
  • Widmer, Eric D.; Kellerhals, Jean; Levy, René. 2006. Types of conjugal interactions and conjugal conflict: A longitudinal assessment. European sociological review, vol. 22, n° 1, pp. 79-89. Online: 10.1093/esr/jci044
  • Widmer, Eric D.; Kellerhals, Jean; Levy, René. 2004. Quelle pluralisation des relations familiales? Conflits, styles d’interactions conjugales et milieu social. Revue française de Sociologie, vol. 45, n°1, pp. 37-67.
  • Kellerhals, Jean; Widmer, Eric; Levy, René. 2004. Mesure et démesure du couple. Cohésion, crises et résilience dans la vie des couples. Editions Payot & Rivages, Paris, 2004.
  • Widmer, Eric; Kellerhals, Jean; Levy, René; Ernst, Michèle; Hammer, Raphaël. 2003. Couples contemporains: cohésion, régulation et conflits. Une enquête sociologique. Editions Seismo, Collection «Analyses sociales», Zurich, 2003.
  • Schicka, Manuela. 2015. The influence of critical life events and life transitions on conjugal quality: a configurational approach. Thèse de doctorat. Université de Genève. Online: 10.13097/archive-ouverte/unige:76710
Financed by
Ethical approval No
Study type
Data availability
Source (Updates) Web
Date created 15.06.2017
Date modified 11.01.2018
Start - End date 01.01.1998 - 03.10.2011