FES | Federación Española de Sociología

XII Congreso de la FES

Parents’ relationship quality, parental divorce and children’s school readiness

GT 3 Sociología de la Familia

Anna Garriga Alsina (Universidad Pompeu Fabra)


Sesión de comunicaciones orales Franja 2 : Rupturas de pareja y crianza de la descendencia
Responsable(s): Diego Becerril (Universidad de Granada)
Tipo de sesión: Sesión de comunicaciones orales
Día: jueves, 30 de junio de 2016
Hora: 16:00 a 18:00
Lugar: 011

The social trend of parental divorce and union dissolution of cohabiting and married couples is an increasing present-day experience for children in all developed countries. It has raised the debate if parental divorce is damaging for children well-being and to what extend they should remain together for the sake of the children. In accordance with this social concern, one of the most extensively discussed topic in the literature has been about the average causality of divorce. Many social surveys have been considered and various different statistical methods have been used putting special emphasis to control for parental relationship quality and conflict prior separation (Amato 2010). This research presents several limitations but the main weakness is that it does not take into account that parental conflict does not always precede all separations. In fact, there is an important percentage of low distress couples who divorce and these are increasing substantially in recent decades (e.g. Gähler and Palmatag, 2015).

For this reason, some American and Canadian studies in the last two decades has documented a more nuanced explanation of the causality of divorce that focuses on the interaction effects between parental divorce and parents’ relationship quality. They took into account in which way divorce affects children, either positively or negatively, instead of concentrating on the average causal effect of divorce (Amato 2010). These studies suggest the hypothesis that divorce may be a positive experience for children from high-distressed marriages. On the other hand, the dissolution of low-distressed marriages may be a negative experience on children’s lives. Despite the importance of these findings, only eight studies have tested these hypotheses and these presents several limitations. However, the most important limitation is that none of these studies are based on proper statistical methods to infer causality. In this paper, we use the first three waves of the British longitudinal and representative data Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) to explore the interrelationships between parental divorce and parents relationship quality on several children’s outcomes at age 5: three different cognitive abilities and five psychological dimensions -conduct, hyperactivity, internalizing and peers problems and prosocial behaviour. By using the augmented inverse propensity weighted estimator (Robins, Rotnitzky and Zhao, 1994), we show that the dissolution of high quality parental unions has the most harmful effects on children’s outcomes especially on conduct problems. Our findings indicate that early childhood programs and interventions are needed in the era of increasing family instability.

Palabras clave: parental divorce, parents\'r relationship quality, children\'s conduct problems, children\'s cognitive development