Volume 36 - Article 3 | Pages 73–110  

Parental separation and children’s education in a comparative perspective: Does the burden disappear when separation is more common?

By Martin Kreidl, Martina Štípková, Barbora Hubatková


Background: Parental breakup has, on average, a net negative effect on children’s education. However, it is unclear whether this negative effect changes when parental separation becomes more common.

Objective: We studied the variations in the effect of parental separation on children’s chances of obtaining tertiary education across cohorts and countries with varying divorce rates.

Methods: We applied country and cohort fixed-effect models as well as random-effect models to data from the first wave of the Generations and Gender Survey, complemented by selected macro-level indicators (divorce rate and educational expansion).

Results: Country fixed-effect logistic regressions show that the negative effect of experiencing parental separation is stronger in more-recent birth cohorts. Random-intercept linear probability models confirm that the negative effect of parental breakup is significantly stronger when divorce is more common.

Conclusions: The results support the low-conflict family dissolution hypothesis, which explains the trend by a rising proportion of low-conflict breakups. A child from a dissolving low-conflict family is likely to be negatively affected by family dissolution, whereas a child from a high-conflict dissolving family experiences relief. As divorce becomes more common and more low-conflict couples separate, more children are negatively affected, and hence, the average effect of breakup is more negative.

Contribution: We show a significant variation in the size of the effect of parental separation on children’s education; the effect becomes more negative when family dissolution is more common.

Author's Affiliation

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