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Demography

, Volume 51, Issue 5, pp 1703–1728 | Cite as

Beyond Transmission: Intergenerational Patterns of Family Formation Among Middle-Class American Families

  • Anette Eva Fasang
  • Marcel Raab
Article

Abstract

Research about parental effects on family behavior focuses on intergenerational transmission: that is, whether children show the same family behavior as their parents. This focus potentially overemphasizes similarity and obscures heterogeneity in parental effects on family behavior. In this study, we make two contributions. First, instead of focusing on isolated focal events, we conceptualize parents’ and their children’s family formation holistically as the process of union formation and childbearing between ages 15 and 40. We then discuss mechanisms likely to shape these intergenerational patterns. Second, beyond estimating average transmission effects, we innovatively apply multichannel sequence analysis to dyadic sequence data on middle-class American families from the Longitudinal Study of Generations (LSOG; N = 461 parent-child dyads). The results show three salient intergenerational family formation patterns among this population: a strong transmission, a moderated transmission, and an intergenerational contrast pattern. We examine what determines parents’ and children’s likelihood to sort into a specific intergenerational pattern. For middle-class American families, educational upward mobility is a strong predictor of moderated intergenerational transmission, whereas close emotional bonds between parents and children foster strong intergenerational transmission. We conclude that intergenerational patterns of family formation are generated at the intersection of macro-structural change and family internal psychological dynamics.

Keywords

Family formation Intergenerational transmission Sequence analysis Demographic trajectories Parent-child dyads 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Editor Pamela Smock, former Editor Stewart Tolnay, and three anonymous reviewers of Demography for detailed and instructive comments that greatly benefited the manuscript. We are indebted to the participants of the writing workshop of the research unit Social Policy and Inequality at the WZB for insightful comments in the early stages of the manuscript. We gratefully acknowledge support from the Center for Research on Inequalities and the Life Course at Yale University and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for a research visit of Marcel Raab in New Haven, where we had the initial idea for this project.

Supplementary material

13524_2014_322_MOESM1_ESM.docx (36 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 35.8 kb)

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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Humboldt-University Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für SozialforschungBerlinGermany

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