Academic journal article Demographic Research

Non-Resident Parent-Child Contact after Marital Dissolution and Parental Repartnering: Evidence from Italy

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Non-Resident Parent-Child Contact after Marital Dissolution and Parental Repartnering: Evidence from Italy

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Over the past few decades the increase in the proportion of separations and divorce involving children has been accompanied by a rise in sole parenthood, and thus an increasing number of children spend some of their childhood without one of their parents (Chapple 2009; Panico et al. 2010). Since a good parent-child interaction contributes to children's psychological well-being and positive development (Carlson 2006; Levin and Currie 2010) and to the non-custodial parent's compliance in paying child support (see, for example, Juby et al. 2007), great attention has been paid in the literature to examining the frequency of contact between non-resident parents and their children, and the factors associated with it (Juby et al. 2007; King and Sobolewski 2006; Nepomnyaschy 2007; Amato, Meyers, and Emery 2009).

The diffusion of marital instability is, however, associated with an increase in repartnering (Ermisch 2002; Sweeney 2010). What about the contact between children and non-resident parents when one or both parents enter a new partnership? Previous empirical literature has usually considered children who live with their mothers after their parents' separation, disregarding those living with their fathers (Sousa and Sorensen 2008). This literature has generally found a negative effect of the non-resident father's repartnering on the contact with his children (Juby et al. 2007; Swiss and Le Bourdais 2009); the research evidence is more mixed regarding resident mother's repartnering. Some studies have suggested that the mother's new union decreases non-resident father involvement (Amato, Meyers, and Emery 2009; Berger, Cancian, and Meyer 2012), whereas others have found little or no effect (Day and Acock 2004; Sobolewski and King 2005; King 2009). Studies on non-resident mothers are limited: most are dated (Stewart 1999) or based on small or highly selected samples (King 2007). More recently, studies on non-resident motherhood have received some attention, but mainly from a qualitative viewpoint (Kielty 2008a, 2008b). In addition, studies on the topic have not considered the relationship between the repartnering of both parents and non-resident parent-child contact.

The aim of the current study is to verify how resident and non-resident parents' repartnering is associated with non-resident parent-child contact for children under 18, examining whether the relationship between repartnering and contact differs according to the gender of the non-resident parent. The analysis refers to Italy, a country that is characterized by a recent but quite rapid spread of marital instability (Istat 2012, 2014). Also, the number of children who spend some of their childhood without one of their parent is becoming significant: in 2009, for example, 66.4% of separations and 60.7% of divorces were of couples with children (Istat 2011a). Even if children usually live with their mothers after their parents' separation, single-father families (excluding those from widowhood) are not insignificant, and in 2009 they comprised a total of roughly 163,000 households (Istat 2011b). At the same time, repartnering is increasingly common: in 2009, 23% of women and 32% of men who had experienced marital instability were in a new union (Istat 2011c). From this perspective, the current paper could shed light on a topic - parental behavior after separation - which, given the lack of adequate data, is still little analyzed for countries moving from a traditional to a more complex family context.

2. Data and measures

The data come from pooling together two independent cross-sectional rounds of the nationally representative survey Family and Social Subjects (FSS), conducted in Italy by the Italian Statistical Institute (ISTAT) in 2003 and in 2009. We focused on 1,079 boys and girls aged 0-17, who at the time of interview were living with their mother after their parents' marital dissolution and had a living father, and on their 135 counterparts who were living with their father and had a living mother. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.