Who Plays the Role of Dad? Intergenerational Transmission in Stepfamilies

Suzanne de Leeuw, University of Amsterdam
Matthijs Kalmijn, University of Amsterdam

Classic mobility research taught us that the resources of biological parents positively affect the educational success of children in traditional two-parent families. Only recently the transmission process in the growing number of non-intact families gained attention. In this type of research the role of non-residential parents and stepparents in the transmission process is examined. The results show that stepparents are also able to influence the educational success of their stepchild and that non-residential fathers might even lose their influence if a stepparent enters the household. However, these studies struggle with data limitations. Recently, a research team at the University of Amsterdam conducted together with Statistics Netherlands a new multi-actor survey among adult children (age 25-45) in the Netherlands (N=6,458) (OKiN data). We use these new data to compare children who experienced a parental divorce and lived in stepfamily during childhood (N=1,808) to children from intact families (N=2,048). Using these data we have two advantage compared to previous studies. First, we use three indicators of resources in the family: educational attainment, occupational status and cultural capital and we are not limited to only educational attainment or occupational status. Second, we are able to take measures of contact frequency and parental involvement into account which was impossible in previous studies. We have all measures of resources and involvement separately for each parent type (residential/non-residential/step). We start with a systematic analysis of the degree to which biological fathers and stepfathers resemble each other and the role that homogamy plays in this resemblance. Subsequently, we use interactions in multivariate regression analyses to compare the influence of biological fathers and stepfathers, controlled for the resources of the mother, on the educational attainment of the child. In addition, we control for parental involvement and contact frequency.

Presented in Session 51: Family Networks and Intergenerational Transmission Processes