The Long-Term Effects of Parental Separation on Childhood Multidimensional Deprivation: A Lifecourse Approach

  • Marion Leturcq
  • Lidia PanicoEmail author
Original Research


A large literature has documented the impact of parental separation on children’s financial poverty. However, income has been increasingly criticized as an indicator of childhood living conditions and deprivation. In this paper, we propose a conceptual framework and adapt existing measures of adult multi-domain deprivation to produce childhood deprivation indicators that are age-specific and child-centred. These new indicators allow within-individual, longitudinal analyses to measure the impact of a shock on childrens living conditions. We apply this method to explore the long term effects of parental separation on childhood deprivation, considering four dimensions of children’s lives: leisure; material conditions; parenting behaviours and routines; and basic material goods. We track children over the first decade of life by using a nationally representative UK cohort of over 18,000 children. Using a fixed-effects framework, we find that, while the increase in income poverty after parental separation is large, the impact on childhood deprivation was more mixed. Our results suggest that, while facing strong financial constraints, separated parents cut back on normative but costly activities such as holidays and outings, but attempt to maintain children’s basic material circumstances and their day-to-day parenting and routines, at least around separation. However, heterogeneous effects exist, suggesting that parents’ pre-separation social and economic capital may play an important role. This approach therefore adds more precision and nuance to our understanding of the processes around parental separation and its impacts on children.


Child poverty Deprivation indicators Family instability Longitudinal methods United Kingdom 

JEL Classification

J12 J13 I32 



We thank the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) families for their time and cooperation, as well as the MCS team at the Institute of Education. The MCS is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, UK. We would also like to thank Elizabeth Thompson for helpful comments on an earlier draft, as well as participants to the several seminars, including the Paris Seminar of Economic Demography; the Laboratoire de Sociologie Quantitative, CREST Paris; and the Duke University Population Research Institute seminar.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


This work was partly funded by an IReSP (Institut de Recherche en Santé Publique) Grant to Lidia Panico (AAP-2015-10).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut National d’Etudes Demographiques (INED)Paris Cedex 20France

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