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Cohabitation and divorce across nations and generations


  • Kathleen E Kiernan


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Kathleen E Kiernan, 2003. "Cohabitation and divorce across nations and generations," CASE Papers case65, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:sticas:case65

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    Cited by:

    1. Dylan Kneale & Ruth Lupton, 2010. "Are there neighbourhood effects on teenage parenthood in the UK, and does it matter for policy? A review of theory and evidence," CASE Papers case141, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.

    More about this item


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

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure


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