, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 659-672

The influence of parents’ marital quality on adult children’s attitudes toward marriage and its alternatives: Main and moderating effects

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Drawing on a panel study of parents and children, we investigate linkages between parents’ marital quality and adult children’s attitudes toward a range of family issues, including premarital sex, cohabitation, lifelong singlehood, and divorce. We hypothesize that parents’ marital quality will be negatively related to children’s support for these behaviors in adulthood and that parents’ marital quality will condition the intergenerational transmission of attitudes toward these issues. We find some evidence that parents’ marital quality influences children’s support for divorce and premarital sex. More important, our analyses show that parents’ marital quality facilitates the intergenerational transmission of attitudes. Parents’ attitudes toward premarital sex, cohabitation, and being single are more strongly linked to those same attitudes among their young adult children when parents’ marital quality is high than when it is low.

Support for this research was provided by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD039425). An earlier version of this manuscript was presented at the 2006 annual meetings of the Population Association of America, Los Angeles. The authors wish to thank the anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier version of this article.