New Evidence for the Intergenerational Transmission of Family Instability

Kyle R. Bartholomew, Ohio State University
Claire M. Kamp Dush, Ohio State University

Stable, committed relationships are linked to positive adult and child outcomes, but many adults, and parents, frequently transition into and out of marriage and cohabitation. This study investigated the intergenerational transmission of repartnering using women from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 and their offspring in the Children and Young Adults sample. Negative binomial regression and sibling fixed-effects results established that maternal and offspring repartnering are associated and that neither economic hardship nor inherited maternal characteristics accounted for this significant association. Further, both maternal repartnering prior to offspring age 18, and post 18, were associated with offspring repartnering. Results supported social learning theory, which posits that offspring learn relational skills and commitment by observing their parents’ relationships and imitating them in their own relationships. These findings suggest that repartnering spans generations and that researchers should investigate potential positive, and negative implications of parental repartnering on adult outcomes.

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Presented in Session 69: Family Structure and Child Outcomes