Parental Separation and Leaving Home: Comparison of 16 European Countries

Aart Liefbroer, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI-KNAW)
Anne Brons, NIDI
Harry Ganzeboom, VU University Amsterdam

Previous research has shown that parental separation is an important predictor of the timing of leaving the parental home; young adults who experience a parental separation leave their parental home earlier than young adults from intact families. Most of these studies are conducted in single countries, mostly conducted in the US or Northern European countries. However, given the social, cultural and economic heterogeneity in Europe, it is unlikely that the link between parental separation and leaving home is consistent across countries. Therefore, we will analyse in the current study the link between parental separation and leaving home for 16 European countries from the first wave of the Generations and Gender Programme. We examine whether there is cross-national variation in the link between parental separation and leaving parental home by using a meta-analytical approach. We also examine how this variation can be explained by focusing on two country-level indicators, namely the divorce rate and the Human Development Index (HDI). In this study, we focus on young men and women between 15 and 35 years old. First preliminary results for women show that overall young women who experienced a parental separation leave their parental home earlier than young women from intact families, also after controlling for parental and individuals’ own education. Moreover, there is considerable cross-national variation in the link between parental separation and leaving home. Whether divorce is common or less common within a country (average divorce rate), does not explain this cross-national variation. However, the impact of parental separation on leaving home is stronger in countries that offer more scope for agency and human development (higher score on HDI). In these countries, young adults have more freedom and autonomy to leave their parental home, especially if something negatives happened, like a parental separation.

Parental separation andleaving home: Comparison of 16 European countries

Introduction &Theoretical background

Previous research shows that parentalseparation is an important predictor of leaving parental home; young adults whoexperience a parental separation leave their home earlier than young adultsfrom intact families. In this study we take acloser look at the process of leaving home. Next to the impact of parentalseparation on the timing of leaving home, we examine two pathways out of theparental home: leaving home to live with or without a partner. We distinguishbetween these pathways, because the motives of young adults to leave the homecan be different (Blaauboer & Mulder, 2010). We expect that experiencing aparental separation results in a higher risk of leaving home for both pathwaysout of the parental home, but the strongest effects of parental separation forleaving home to live without a partner.

Moreover, we examinethis link from a cross-national comparative perspective. Most existing studieson this topic are conducted in single countries. Only the study of Mencariniand colleagues (2012) examined the link between parental separation and home-leavingcross-nationally for 6 European countries. In this study, we analyze data on 16European countries from the Generations and Gender Programme (GGP). First, weexpect cross-national variation in the link between parental divorce and thetiming of leaving home. Second, we test two possible but contradictorycountry-level explanations for this variation. One hypothesis is related to thecommonness of divorce within a country; it can be expected that in countrieswhere divorce is more common, the impact of parental separation is weaker thanin countries where divorce is less common. Experiencing a parental divorce isstigmatized in countries with a low divorce rate, while this is less the casein countries with a higher divorce rate. On the other hand, it can be expectedthat the impact of parental separation on leaving home is stronger in countrieswhere the focus is on self-realization, autonomy and agency (higher score onHuman Development Index) compared to less human developed countries. In highly developedcountries, young adults are less hampered by their family background and havemore freedom/opportunities to leave their home, if something negative happened,like parental separation. This hypothesis is contradictory to the first one,since most countries that offer more scope for agency and human developmentalso have a higher divorce rate.

 

 

Data & Methods

We use data from the GGP of which wecan use 16 countries. In this study, we analyze the risk of leaving theparental home for respondents born from 1960 onwards. Young adults are at riskfrom age 15 onwards, because if young adults left their home before age 15 itis very likely that it is due to special circumstances instead of thetransition to adulthood.

Next to parentalseparation as our main independent variable, we include the average educationallevel of both parents, respondents’ educational level and educational enrolmentin the models. With regard to the country-level indicators, we use the averagecrude divorce rate from 1970 until 2011 (United Nations, 2009; 2013) and theaverage Human Development Index from 1990 – 2013 (United Nations DevelopmentProgramme, 2017).

Discrete-timehazard models are estimated for each country separately to obtain the estimateand standard error of the effect of parental separation on the rate of leavinghome. Next, we use meta-analysis and meta-regression to examine whethercross-national variation in this effect exists and whether this variation isrelated to country-level indicators.

 

Preliminary results

In Figure 1 and 2, we show the firstresults for women. Figure 1 shows that, overall, there is a significant impactof parental separation on the timing of leaving parental home. Young adults whoexperienced a parental separation leave their home earlier then young adultsfrom intact families (b = .17). However, when looking at the country-specificresults, for only half of the countries there is significant associationbetween parental separation and leaving home. Moreover, Figure 1 also showsthat there is considerable cross-national variation in the link betweenparental separation and home-leaving (I2 > 50%).

In a next step weexamine whether we can explain this cross-national variation. Results fromFigure 2 show that in countries where agency, freedom and self-realization aremore central and where young adults can develop themselves better (higher scoreon Human Development Index), the impact of parental divorce on leaving home is stronger.In these countries, young adults have more freedom and autonomy to leave theirhome, especially if something negative happened, like a parental separation. Youngadults are less hampered by their family background and can realize theirpreferences if they want to leave their parental home. Results, not shown inthis abstract, also show that the average crude divorce rate does not explainthe cross-national variation.

 

Presented in Session 1236: Families and Households