, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 875–883 | Cite as

No trend in the intergenerational transmission of divorce

  • Jui-Chung fnAllen LiEmail author
  • Lawrence L. Wu


Previous studies on trends in the intergenerational transmission of divorce have produced mixed findings, with two studies (McLanahan and Bumpass 1988; Teachman 2002) reporting no trend in divorce transmission and one study (Wolfinger 1999) finding that divorce transmission has weakened substantially. Using a stratified Cox proportional hazard model, we analyze data from the National Survey of Families and Households and find no evidence for any trend in divorce transmission. To reconcile apparent differences in results, we note that the General Social Survey data used by Wolfinger lack information on marital duration, permitting analysis only for whether respondents have divorced by interview. As a result, an apparent decline in divorce transmission could be due to inadequate adjustments for the longer exposures to risk by earlier marriage cohorts, yielding a higher probability of divorce by interview for earlier cohorts relative to more recent cohorts even if divorce risks are identical across all marriage cohorts. We confirm this possibility by using a series of discrete-time hazard logistic regressions to investigate the sensitivity of estimates of trends in divorce transmission to different adjustments for exposure to risk. We conclude that there has been no trend in the intergenerational transmission of divorce.


Divorce Rate General Social Survey Intergenerational Transmission Parental Divorce Occupational Prestige 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allison, P.D. 1982. “Discrete-Time Methods for the Analysis of Event Histories.” Pp. 61–98 in Sociological Methodology 1982, edited by S. Leinhardt. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.Google Scholar
  2. Amato, P.R. 1996. “Explaining the Intergenerational Transmission of Divorce.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 58:62–40.Google Scholar
  3. — 2003. “Reconciling Divergent Perspectives: Judith Wallerstein, Quantitative Family Research, and Children of Divorce.” Family Relations 52:332–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Amato, P.R. and B. Keith. 1991. “Parental Divorce and the Well-being of Children: A Meta- Analysis.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 110:26–46.Google Scholar
  5. Biblarz, T.J. and A.E. Raftery. 1999. “Family Structure, Educational Attainment, and Socioeconomic Success: Rethinking the ‘Pathology of Matriarch.’” American Journal of Sociology 105:321–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bumpass, L.L., T. Castro Martin, and J.A. Sweet. 1991. “The Impact of Family Background and Early Marital Factors on Marital Disruption.” Journal of Family Issues 12:22–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cherlin, A.J. 1999. “Going to Extremes: Family Structure, Children’s Well-being, and Social Science.” Demography 36:421–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Diekmann, A. and H. Engelhardt. 1999. “The Social Inheritance of Divorce: Effects of Parent’s Family Type in Postwar Germany.” American Sociological Review 64:783–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Kiernan, K. and A.J. Cherlin. 1999. “Parental Divorce and Partnership Dissolution in Adulthood: Evidence From a British Cohort Study.” Population Studies 53:39–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Li, J.-C.A. and L.L. Wu. 2006. “No Trend in the Intergenerational Transmission of Divorce.” NSFH Working Paper No. 94. Center for Demography and Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison.Google Scholar
  11. McLanahan, S.S. 1985. “Family Structure and the Reproduction of Poverty.” American Journal of Sociology 90:873–901.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. McLanahan, S. and L. Bumpass. 1988. “Intergenerational Consequences of Family Disruption.” American Journal of Sociology 94:130–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. McLanahan, S. and G. Sandefur. 1994. Growing Up With a Single Parent: What Hurts and What Helps. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Musick, K.A. and R.D. Mare. 2006. “Recent Trends in the Inheritance of Poverty and Family Structure.” Social Science Research 35:471–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Preston, S.H. and J. McDonald. 1979. “The Incidence of Divorce Within Cohorts of American Marriages Contracted Since the Civil War.” Demography 16:1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Sweet, J., L. Bumpass, and V. Call. 1988. “The Design and Content of the National Survey of Families and Households.” NSFH Working Paper No. 1. Center for Demography and Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison.Google Scholar
  17. Teachman, J.D. 2002. “Stability Across Cohorts in Divorce Risk Factors.” Demography 39:331–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Wolfinger, N.H. 1999. “Trends in the Intergenerational Transmission of Divorce.” Demography 36:415–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of European and American Studies, Academia Sinica, and Population Research CenterRAND CorporationTaipeiTAIWAN
  2. 2.Department of SociologyNew York UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations