OBJECTIVE We examine differences across Europe in attitudes towards divorce involving children
under the age of 12. We hypothesize that these attitudes are less favourable in countries where poverty among single parent households is common than in countries where such poverty is rare. We also expect that divorce involving young children is more accepted
in countries where enrolment in child care is high.
Our sample consists of 37,975 individuals from 22 countries, obtained from the
European Social Survey (2006). We conduct multilevel regression analyses including individual-level and country-level variables. RESULTS
Findings confirm our main hypotheses: the lower the poverty rate among single parents and the higher enrolment in childcare, the lower the disapproval of divorce when young
children are involved. These findings remain when taking into account the crude
divorce rate and secularisation at the country level, and when controlling for differences
in the composition of populations with regard to individual characteristics that are
associated with divorce attitudes. Additionally, cross-level interactions indicate that poverty among single parents has the strongest impact on mothers’ divorce attitudes.
Divorce attitudes appear to be related to people’s assessment of the consequences of
divorce for the children involved. Cross-European differences in attitudes towards
divorce involving young children are associated with two aspects of welfare states that are indicative of the consequences of divorce for children and the parent that takes care of them: poverty among single parents and child care.