Timing of Parental Divorce, Marriage Expectations, and Romance in Taiwan

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In response to the prevalence of divorced families, numerous family studies have focused on the influence of parental divorce and marital conflict on offspring's intimate relationship formation (Raley, Crissey, & Muller 2007; Ryan, Franzetta, Schelar, & Manlove, 2009). However, the impacts of the timing of divorce and parental conflict related to parent-child relations have rarely been studied. This study draws on data from Taiwan to address this gap by examining the associations between offspring's marriage expectations and romantic relationships in young adulthood (age 20), and the timing of parental divorce and marital conflict during adolescence. Furthermore, this study examines the effects of parent-child relations.

In recent years, Taiwan has experienced a dramatic demographic transition. Crude divorce rates have increased 551% in the last 40 years, from 0.37 per 1,000 people in the population in 1970 to 2.41 in 2012 (Ministry of the Interior, Taiwan, 2013). According to the 2011 Population and Housing Census, single-parent families with children under age 18 increased nearly 42% in 10 years (Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, Taiwan, 2011). On the other hand, the trend of marriage is opposite that of divorce. Crude marriage rates have declined from 7.5 per 1,000 people in 1970 to 6.16 per 1,000 people in 2012 (Ministry of the Interior, Taiwan, 2013). Based on these recent demographic changes, it is important to explore the potential impact of family instability on the family system in Taiwan.

In the present study, two types of family instability, namely, parental divorce and parental conflict, on children's romantic relationships and marriage expectations are examined. The reason for focusing on children's later interpersonal relationships is that although research has documented that children raised in divorced or conflicted families are more likely to score low on measures of psychological well-being and academic achievement than those in non-conflicted two-parent families (Amato, 2010), relatively little is known about whether these family experiences affect children's later development with regard to intimate relationships. In addition, few studies have focused on the impacts of the timing of parental divorce on children's early romantic formation. This study focuses attention on the marriage expectations and romantic relationships of young adults because their expectations of marriage and romantic experiences may provide a clue to future trends in family formation. Using data from the Taiwan Youth Project (TYP), the study attempts to explore whether the timing of parental divorce and marital conflict have significant effects on the formation of intimate relationship in young adulthood, and whether parent-child relations are related to the effects of family instability on young adults' outcomes. Specifically, young adults who experienced parental divorce at or before age 12 are compared with those who experienced parental divorce during adolescence.

EMPIRICAL RESEARCH ON MARRIAGE EXPECTATIONS AND ROMANCE

In the past three decades, a tremendous amount of research has focused on the impacts of parental divorce on children's well-being. Children of divorce show lower levels of psychological well-being, academic performance, self-esteem, and parent-child relationships, and they are more likely to exhibit delinquent behaviors (Amato & Keith, 1991; Amato, 2001, 2010). Furthermore, as these children grow into adulthood, they may continue to be affected by family disruption and may be delayed in moving into the next stage of the life course, such as delaying marriage (Wallerstein, Lewis, & Blakeslee, 2000) or cohabitation; they may marry or have a child at an earlier age; they may experience their own marital discord; or they may experience disrupted relationships (Amato, 2006; Spruijt & De Goede, 1997).

Family Instability and Marriage Expectations

The influence of family instability on children's later union formation has attracted the attention of family researchers. …