The intergenerational transmission of family dissolution – and how it varies by social class origin and birth cohort

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This research investigates whether the social class of divorced parents has any bearing on the likelihood of their children also getting divorced.

Specifically it seeks to establish whether having more advantaged parents makes divorcing less likely thereby weakening the intergenerational transmission of divorce. It finds it does not.

The researchers analyse 38,000 life histories from three birth cohorts in the United Kingdom and show that the probability of divorce amounts to 16% among the children of intact families, but to 29% among those of non-intact families.

It also showed that across the cohorts, the effect of parents’ social class on their children’s probability of getting divorced reversed. Children of working-class parents in the earliest cohort  (1925-45) were less likely to divorce than their middle-class counterparts, whereas among Baby Boomers (1946-64) and Generation X (1965-79) they were much more likely to do so.

The researchers say the analysis demonstrates the powerful influence of having divorced parents has on the likelihood of children themselves divorcing  but provides no evidence for a compensatory class effect.