European views of divorce among parents of young children: understanding cross-national variation

A.J. Rijken, A.C. Liefbroer

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OBJECTIVE: We examine differences across Europe in attitudes towards divorce involving children under the age of 12. We hypothesize that these attitudes are less favourable in countries where poverty among single parent households is common than in countries where such poverty is rare. We also expect that divorce involving young children is more accepted in countries where enrolment in child care is high. METHODS: Our sample consists of 37,975 individuals from 22 countries, obtained from the European Social Survey (2006). We conduct multilevel regression analyses including individual-level and country-level variables. RESULTS: Findings confirm our main hypotheses: the lower the poverty rate among single parents and the higher enrolment in childcare, the lower the disapproval of divorce when young children are involved. These findings remain when taking into account the crude divorce rate and secularisation at the country level, and when controlling for differences in the composition of populations with regard to individual characteristics that are associated with divorce attitudes. Additionally, cross-level interactions indicate that poverty among single parents has the strongest impact on mothers' divorce attitudes. CONCLUSIONS: Divorce attitudes appear to be related to people's assessment of the consequences of divorce for the children involved. Cross-European differences in attitudes towards divorce involving young children are associated with two aspects of welfare states that are indicative of the consequences of divorce for children and the parent that takes care of them: poverty among single parents and child care. © 2012 Arieke J. Rijken & Aart C. Liefbroer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-53
JournalDemographic Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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