Interdependencies in Mothers’ and Daughters’ Work-Family Life Course Trajectories: Similar but Different?


Women’s life courses underwent substantial changes in the family and work domains in the second half of the twentieth century. The associated fundamental changes in opportunity structures and values challenged the importance of families of origin for individual life courses, but two research strands suggest enduring within-family reproduction of women’s family behavior and work outcomes. We revisit this issue by studying two complementary types of intergenerational associations in women’s combined work-family trajectories. On the one hand, we examine similarities across mothers’ and daughters’ work-family trajectories to address the direct within-family reproduction of female life courses (intergenerational persistence). On the other hand, we examine systematic associations between work-family trajectories that are typical in each generation to address intergenerational interdependencies beyond direct reproduction that account for individual and societal constrains and opportunities that each generation faced (intergenerational correspondence). We use a within-dyad approach to sequence analysis and examine combined work-family trajectories between ages 18 and 35 of two generations of women, born in 1930–1949 and in 1958–1981, within the same family drawn from the German Socio-Economic Panel. Overall, we find evidence of small but nontrivial persistence in work-family trajectories across generations that is partly attributed to within-family mechanisms of reproduction. In addition, we find correspondence across typical trajectory patterns of each generation, without daughters necessarily resembling their mothers’ trajectories. The strength of the intergenerational associations varies by social background. Our research improves and broadens our understanding of the reproduction of female life courses across generations.

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Data Availability

Data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) study are available from the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) (


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We thank Michael Kühhirt, Lukas Fervers, participants in the European Population Conference held in Brussels in 2018, and participants in the 2018 annual meeting of the PAA held in Denver for comments and suggestions. We acknowledge financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Grant No. RYC-2015-18254); the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (Grant No. RTI-2018-097664-A-100); and the Support Network for Interdisciplinary Social Policy Research (FIS) of the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. The code for the analysis is available at

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All authors made substantial contributions to the conception and design of the work, revised it critically for important intellectual content, approved the version to be published, and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved. Sergi Vidal and Philipp Lersch did the data analysis and drafted the work.

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Correspondence to Sergi Vidal.

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Vidal, S., Lersch, P.M., Jacob, M. et al. Interdependencies in Mothers’ and Daughters’ Work-Family Life Course Trajectories: Similar but Different?. Demography 57, 1483–1511 (2020).

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  • Intergenerational transmission
  • Women
  • Life course
  • Sequence analysis
  • Germany