The Dilution of Parents’ Non-Material Resources in Stepfamilies: The Role of Complex Sibling Configurations

Suzanne de Leeuw , University of Amsterdam
Matthijs Kalmijn, University of Amsterdam
Ruben van Gaalen, Statistics Netherlands/University of Amsterdam (Sociology)

As a result of the rising divorce rates, an increasing number of children grow up with half and stepsiblings in the family. It has been argued, in the context of the intact family, that an increase in the number of siblings means that a smaller share of the parental resources is available per child (the resource dilution hypothesis). However, this study shows that, in the complex family structures of a stepfamily, some sibling types dilute parental resources more strongly than others. We distinguish two main mechanisms that shape the dilution of resources. First, parents might invest more in their biological offspring. Second, the opportunity structures created by the most common coresidence arrangements and the kinkeeping role of the women in families, might shape the investment patterns of parents. We focus on non-material parental resources (i.e., parental involvement) and use the OKiN dataset to examine paternal (n = 1,077) and maternal (n = 1,369) resources separately. Overall, the results confirm the existence of the aforementioned mechanisms. Moreover, the dilution was strongest when both mechanisms – biology and kinkeeping - predicted dilution and weaker when only one of the mechanisms hypothesized a dilution of resources. The only exception is the absence of an association between the number of half siblings and maternal involvement, which suggests compensatory behaviour by the mother. While mothers seem to use their resources to protect the children of their first marriage, father tend to spend at least some resources on all types of children.

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 Presented in Session 103. Children in Diverse Family Structures