Family disruption and intergenerational transmission: Comparing the influences of married parents, divorced parents, and stepparents

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Abstract

The transmission of individual characteristics and behaviors across generations has frequently been studied in the social sciences. For a growing number of children, however, the biological father was present in the household for only part of the time; and for many children, stepfathers were present. What are the implications of these changes for the process of intergenerational transmission? To answer this question, this article compares intergenerational transmission among married, divorced, and stepparents. Two forms of reproduction are studied: educational attainment and church attendance. For education, divorced fathers were as influential as married fathers, whereas stepfathers were less influential. For church attendance, married fathers were most influential, divorced fathers were least influential, and stepfathers were in between. Divorced mothers, in contrast, appeared to be more influential than married mothers. These findings lend negative support for the social capital hypothesis and positive support for notions of value socialization. The strong role of the divorced father for educational transmission is consistent with genetic processes and hypotheses about early advantages.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)811-833
JournalDemography
Volume52
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords

  • divorce
  • education
  • religion
  • intergenerational reproduction
  • social capital
  • SSCI

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