Effects of Parental Divorce on Teenage Children’s Risk Behaviors: Incidence and Persistence


It is generally difficult to separate the effects of divorce from selection when analyzing the effects of parental divorce on children’s risk behaviors. We used propensity score matching and longitudinal data methods to estimate the effects of parents’ divorce on their children’s binge drinking, alcohol consumption, tobacco use, marijuana use, and hard drug use. The children were between 12 and 18 years old in the first survey and between 18 and 24 years old in the second survey. Our results suggest that parental divorce significantly increased the probability of risk behaviors in their children. Moreover, many of these adverse impacts persisted over time, especially among teenage girls.

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  1. 1.

    To include the 1538 mothers who did not record when their marriage/cohabitation started, the 1067 who did not record their income, and the 180 who did not record their age, we performed regression imputation in Stata.


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The Research Council of Norway, Grants 190306/I10 and 233800/E50, provided financial support for this research. This research uses data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by a grant P01-HD31921 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524 (addhealth@unc.edu).

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Correspondence to Geir Wæhler Gustavsen.



See Tables 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.

Table 6 Frequency of risk behaviors (unmatched samples)
Table 7 Estimates of correlations between the error terms in the bivariate probit model
Table 8 Estimated coefficients from random effects probit model for males
Table 9 Estimated coefficients from random effects probit model for females
Table 10 Estimates of divorce parameters, standard deviations, and marginal effects (average treatment effects of the treated) when correlation is restricted in the bivariate probit model

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Gustavsen, G.W., Nayga, R.M. & Wu, X. Effects of Parental Divorce on Teenage Children’s Risk Behaviors: Incidence and Persistence. J Fam Econ Iss 37, 474–487 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10834-015-9460-5

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  • Divorce
  • Children’s outcome
  • Propensity score
  • Random effects probit