How Context Matters: Childhood Family Structure and Early Family Formation in East and West Germany

Marcel Raab, WZB Berlin Social Science Center

This study investigated the association between childhood living arrangements and early family formation in Germany. Drawing on socio-environmental differences between East and West Germany the author examined whether the association of childhood family structure and the transition to adulthood varies in different societal contexts. The analysis based on data from the German Family Panel (pairfam and DemoDiff) showed that children from non-traditional family structures experience important demographic transitions faster than children who have been raised by both biological parents. In addition, the study revealed considerable context-specific differences, which point to the long-term consequences of the post-war separation of East and West Germany. First, family structure was less predictive for early family formation in East Germany. Second, the results indicated that the link between childhood family structure and the reproduction of social inequality, which has been found in many studies from the US, could only be replicated for West Germany.

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Presented in Session 178: Family Structure and Child Outcomes: An International Perspective