Volume 23 - Article 17 | Pages 479–508

Children’s Experiences of Family Disruption in Sweden: Differentials by Parent Education over Three Decades

By Sheela Kennedy, Elizabeth Thomson

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Date received:21 Apr 2009
Date published:31 Aug 2010
Word count:9021
Keywords:children, cohabitation, family dynamics, family structure


This paper examines the living arrangements of Swedish children from 1970 through 1999 using the Level of Living Survey. Sweden, with low levels of economic inequality and a generous welfare state, provides an important context for studying socioeconomic differentials in family structure. We find that, although differences by parent education in non-marital childbearing are substantial and persistent, cohabiting childbearing is common even among highly educated Swedish parents. Educational differences in family instability were small during the 1970s, but increased over time as a result of rising union disruption among less-educated parents (secondary graduates or less). Children in more advantaged families experienced substantially less change in family structure and instability over the study period. Although cohabiting parents were more likely to separate than parents married at the child’s birth, differences were greater for the less-educated. Data limitations precluded investigating these differences across time. We conclude that educational differences in children’s living arrangements in Sweden have grown, but remain small in international comparisons.

Author's Affiliation

Sheela Kennedy - University of Michigan, United States of America [Email]
Elizabeth Thomson - Stockholms Universitet, Sweden [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» Towards a Geography of Unmarried Cohabitation in the Americas
Volume 30 - Article 59

» Register-based estimates of parents' coresidence in Sweden, 1969-2007
Volume 29 - Article 42

» Cohabitation and children's living arrangements: New estimates from the United States
Volume 19 - Article 47

» Step-families and Childbearing Desires in Europe
Special Collection 3 - Article 5

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