Adult Children’s Union Status and Contact with Mothers: A Comparative View Using within-Family Fixed-Effect Models

Martin Kreidl , Masaryk University
Zuzana Žilincíková, Masaryk University

Intergenerational contact and exchange are important sources of support for both adult children as well as their parents. Thus, it is imperative to study their frequency and determining factors. Research based on all available child-parent dyads indicates that adult children living in cohabitations interact with their mothers less often than children living in marriage (Yahirun, Hamplová 2014). This finding is based both on within- and between-family comparisons. Some scholars use a causal argument to explain this association: it should be the lower institutionalization and social recognition of unmarried cohabitations that produce this effect. We find this interpretation to be dubious as both union status and frequency of contact may depend on unmeasured family- or person-level variables (such as familialistic norms and perceived obligations). Thus, the cross-sectional association may be spurious. We revisit the issue and examine data from the Survey of Health and Retirement in Europe. We study all respondents who have adult non-coresident children aged 25, or older. We use within-family sibling comparisons to control for unmeasured parental characteristics. We explore if differences in marital status between siblings are associated with differences in contact. We find that almost no difference between married and cohabiting children persist in fixed-effect models. Thus, we conclude that the effect of union status on intergenerational contact can be interpreted causally only to a very limited extent in this setup. A comparative view at the data reveals little systematic variation of the union status effect in fixed-effect models estimated separately for each country.

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 Presented in Session P2. Poster Session Ageing, Health and Mortality