Divorce and Parity Progression following the Death of a Child: A Population-Based Prospective Study

Jan M. Saarela, University of Helsinki and Åbo Akademi University
Fjalar Finnäs, Åbo Akademi University
Mikael Rostila, Stockholm University

Previous research on the association between child loss and relationship stability is inconclusive. A reason might be that bereaved parents of reproductive age are inclined to give birth to a new child. Using longitudinal Finnish register data that make it possible to construct couples from the moment they marry and become parents, we analyze the association between child loss and parental separation by allowing for compensatory behavior in terms of new births. We prospectively follow more than 100,000 couples for a maximum period of fifteen years and estimate risk ratios of divorce and parity progression, respectively, between bereaved and non-bereaved couples. We find that a minor child’s death has only a modest influence on marital stability, whereas its association with parity progression is considerable. It is hence likely that giving birth to a new child may buffer against any negative consequences on relationship quality among bereaved parents.

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 Presented in Session P3. Fertility Intentions and Behaviors