Volume 42 - Article 9 | Pages 245–292  

Remain, leave, or return? Mothers’ location continuity after separation in Belgium

By Christine Schnor, Júlia Mikolai

This article is part of the Special Collection 27 "Separation, Divorce, and Residential Mobility in a Comparative Perspective"


Background: Partnership dissolution can mark an extended period of residential instability for mothers and their children. Location continuity, i.e., the ability to stay in or return to the same neighbourhood after separation, is essential to reduce the negative consequences of separation.

Objective: We focus on mothers’ post-separation location continuity in the three years following separation and study the role of socioeconomic resources and local ties (to a home, neighbourhood, and region) in remaining in or returning to their pre-separation neighbourhood.

Methods: Using linked Belgian Census (2001) and register data (2001–2006), we estimate multinomial logistic regression models (N = 25,802). Based on the occurrence, frequency, and destination of moves, we distinguish between high, moderate, and low degrees of location continuity. We also study the probability of remaining in, leaving, or returning to the pre-separation neighbourhood.

Results: Mothers who live at their place of birth (a measure of local ties) tend to stay in or return to their pre-separation neighbourhood or region; if they have more socioeconomic resources they are more likely to remain in the family home. Mothers from disadvantaged backgrounds move further and more often.

Conclusions: If separated mothers lack socioeconomic resources and local ties, they are less likely to maintain location continuity. Policy programmes should target these women in order to provide better opportunities for separated mothers and their children.

Contribution: We introduce the concept of post-separation location continuity and account for separation-induced as well as post-separation residential changes in the first three years after separation.

Author's Affiliation

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