Family Relationship and Child Wellbeing in Post-Separation Families

Research question/goal: 

A considerable body of literature has identified that post-separation children face disadvantages concerning their cognitive and social skills compared to children who live with both of their biological parents in a household. Most existing research analyses families in the US; only in the last years, the association between non-intact families and child outcomes has been examined increasingly in the continental European context. However, only few studies explicitly investigate mediators of this association.

In this project, we investigate the mediating effect of different types of conflicts that can occur in post-separation families. We distinguish conflicts between the two biological parents, between the mother and her new partner, between the child and each biological parent, and between the child and the stepparent in the household. Especially information about stepparent–child and step-parental relationship quality might improve our understanding of why children who live with their two biological parents fare better than those who live in stepfamilies. We focus on two child well-being indicators as outcome variables (behavioural problems and emotional symptoms), using data of 8- to 16-year-old children surveyed in the German Family Panel pairfam.

Current stage: 

One focus of our project was to examine whether changes in family structure are associated with an increase in children's stress levels. To this end, we used a biomarker, measured in children’s blood, as an objective stress indicator, which is included in the KiGGS data of the German Robert Koch Institute. We analysed both the transition to a single-parent family and the transition to a stepfamily. The work has been presented at conferences and is currently under review for publication. In a new paper project, we focus on children's school grades after the transition to a new family structure using Norwegian register data. In the analysis, we also consider children living in joint physical custody, i.e. children who live with each parent for at least 30 percent of the time. The study is being prepared for publication.

Fact sheet

2018 to 2024
Data Sources: 
survey dataset
Geographic Space: