New Family Constellations and Children's Well-Being in Germany

Sandra Krapf, University of Mannheim

A considerable body of literature has identified that children living with a stepparent or with a single mother face disadvantages compared to children in traditional families, i.e. those who live with both their biological parents in a household. However, the existing literature often does not take into consideration that the negative consequences of new family constellations might be reduced after some time of adjustment. In this paper, I argue that the negative consequences of family change might decrease over time. The study adds to the existing literature in two ways. First, going beyond the usual dichotomy of single mother versus stepparent families, I investigate how detailed partnership statuses of the mother after separation (single, living apart together, cohabiting and (re)married) are associated with children’s emotional symptoms and conduct problems. Second, an interaction analysis shows how children’s well-being varies with the duration of the current partnership status. In the empirical analysis, I use the child-questionnaire of the German Family Panel pairfam for the years 2009-2016 with 1,112 observations (7 to 16 year old children). First results indicate that children with a single mother do not have lower levels of well-being compared to the average level. By contrast, children whose residential mother has a new partner outside the household have lower levels of well-being than the average and they adapt to this situation after 24 months. Among children living with the new partner of the mother in a household it takes 36 months until their well-being reaches the average level.

Presented in Session 75: Childrens Family Contexts and Well-Being