Volume 46 - Article 21 | Pages 619–652  

‘Silver splits’ in Europe: The role of grandchildren and other correlates

By Giammarco Alderotti, Cecilia Tomassini, Daniele Vignoli


Background: ‘Silver splits’ – the union dissolutions after the age of 50 – have received growing attention in both the press and nonacademic discourse. Nonetheless, while there is a vast amount of research on the sociodemographic, health-related, and economic consequences of late union dissolution, no studies have yet (to the best of our knowledge) analysed the correlates of silver splits in Europe.

Objective: This paper aims to document the correlates of union dissolution in later life in Europe, with a specific focus on the role played by grandchildren.

Methods: We used data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) and employed logistic regression to model the probability of experiencing union dissolution after the age of 50.

Results: Our results show that (1) having grandchildren is related to a lower probability of experiencing a silver split, (2) the other correlates of silver splits generally do not differ from the classical correlates of union dissolution early in life, and (3) the European correlates of silver splits accord with those found in the literature for North America.

Contribution: This study sheds light on an increasingly relevant new family process occurring later in life (silver splits), thereby filling a clear gap in the European literature. Among the correlates of silver splits, the role of grandchildren appears crucial. They serve to ‘refill the nest’ once a couple’s children have left, thereby inhibiting silver splits as grandparents assume new responsibilities in the family and society.

Author's Affiliation

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