The Impact of Union Dissolution and Divorce on Adolescents’ and Adults’ Relationships with their Parents

Oliver Arránz Becker


Using data of the German Family Panel pairfam, this article examines whether relationship-related transitions among adolescents and adults – separations with or without subsequent new relationships and transitions from being single to a relationship – impact different aspects of their relationship with their parents (contact frequency, intimacy, and conflict). Several competing hypotheses are tested. The resource hypothesis, following a supply-side argumentation, posits that relationships generate resources (i.e. social capital) that facilitate exchange with parents; relationship breakup implies resource deprivation and produces strain, which adversely affects the parent-child relationship (spillover hypothesis). According to the demand-based compensation hypothesis, horizontal relationships and vertical intergenerational relations are substitutively associated with each other; hence, exchanges between generations should be strongest when children are not involved in romantic relationships. The analyses yield evidence in line with both the compensation hypothesis (particularly among adolescents) and the spillover hypothesis (among adults). The effects are largely gender neutral.


Intergenerational relations; Solidarity; Life course; Union dissolution and divorce

Full Text:



Copyright (c) 2015 Comparative Population Studies

© 2019 Federal Institute for Population Research