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Cohabitation and divorce across nations and generations
Kathleen E Kiernan
March 2003
Paper No' CASE 065:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: J12

Tags: divorce; parental divorce; cohabitation; comparative study; longitudinal; inter-generational

Parental divorce has been an increasing experience amongst the generations of children born since the 1970s in European countries. This study analyses data on the partnership and parenthood behaviour of those children who experienced parental separation during childhood for nine Western European nations, as well as Britain and the USA. Across all nations the hallmarks of the adult demographic behaviour of children who experienced parental divorce (compared with those who did not) are that they are more likely to form partnerships and to become parents at a young age; they are more likely to opt for cohabitation over marriage; they are less likely to have their first child within marriage; and their own partnerships and marriages are in turn more likely to terminate. Recently available data from the 1970 cohort was also used to search for prior factors that might throw light on why the partnership and parenthood behaviour of children who had experienced parental separation might differ from their peers without such an experience.

Published in P.L. Chase-Lansdale, K. Kiernan and R. Friedman (eds.), Human Development across Lives and Generations: The Potential for Change, Cambridge University Press, 2004