• Birth cohort;
  • Cohabitation;
  • Competing risk;
  • Life course;
  • Marriage

A discrete time competing risks hazards model is used to analyse entry into first partnership among men and women born in Britain in 1958. Using a life-course approach we identify family background and current life experiences which affect the timing and type of first-partnership formation. Education is a key factor influencing the age of entry into first partnership and whether or not the respondent will experience pregnancy before forming the partnership. Religiosity, experience of parental separation and the geographical region of residence are more important in affecting the decision to cohabit rather than to marry directly. The analyses highlight the importance of transitions in other domains such as leaving the parental home in encouraging cohabitation.