The intergenerational transmission of partnering

Claire M. Kamp Dush, Rachel Arocho, Sara Mernitz, Kyle Bartholomew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


As divorce and cohabitation dissolution in the US have increased, partnering has expanded to the point that sociologists describe a merry-go-round of partners in American families. Could one driver of the increase in the number of partners be an intergenerational transmission of partnering? We discuss three theoretical perspectives on potential mechanisms that would underlie an intergenerational transmission of partnering: the transmission of economic hardship, the transmission of marriageable characteristics and relationship skills, and the transmission of relationship commitment. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 Child and Young Adult study (NLSY79 CYA) and their mothers in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79), we examined the intergenerational transmission of partnering, including both marital and cohabitating unions, using prospective measures of family and economic instability as well as exploiting sibling data to try to identify potential mechanisms. Even after controlling for maternal demographic characteristics and socioeconomic factors, the number of maternal partners was positively associated with offspring's number of partners. Hybrid sibling Poisson regression models that examined sibling differential experiences of maternal partners indicated that there were no differences between siblings who witnessed more or fewer maternal partners. Overall, results suggested that the transmission of poor marriageable characteristics and relationship skills from mother to child may warrant additional attention as a potential mechanism through which the number of partners continues across generations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0205732
JournalPloS one
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Sara Mernitz was supported by grant, P2CHD042849, Population Research Center, and grant, T32HD007081, Training Program in Population Studies, both awarded to the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant No. DGE-1343012 awarded to Arocho also supported this research. The National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth is sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors (s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, or U.S. Department of Labor. TEKsystems provided support in the form of salary for author [KB], but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the 'author contributions' section. Author Bartholomew's research activities were completed while a masters student at The Ohio State University.

Funding Information:
Funding:SaraMernitzwassupportedbygrant, P2CHD042849,PopulationResearchCenter,and grant,T32HD007081,TrainingProgramin PopulationStudies,bothawardedtothePopulation ResearchCenteratTheUniversityofTexasat AustinbytheEuniceKennedyShriverNational InstituteofChildHealthandHumanDevelopment. TheNationalScienceFoundationGraduate ResearchFellowshipunderGrantNo.DGE-1343012awardedtoArochoalsosupportedthis research.TheNationalLongitudinalSurveysof YouthissponsoredbytheU.S.BureauofLabor Statistics,U.S.DepartmentofLabor.Anyopinion, findings,andconclusionsorrecommendations expressedinthismaterialarethoseoftheauthors (s)anddonotnecessarilyreflecttheviewsofthe NationalInstitutesofHealth,NationalScience Foundation,orU.S.DepartmentofLabor. TEKsystemsprovidedsupportintheformofsalary forauthor[KB],butdidnothaveanyadditionalrole inthestudydesign,datacollectionandanalysis, decisiontopublish,orpreparationofthe manuscript.Thespecificrolesoftheseauthorsare articulatedinthe‘authorcontributions’section. AuthorBartholomew’sresearchactivitieswere completedwhileamastersstudentatTheOhio StateUniversity.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright: © 2018 Kamp Dush et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Dive into the research topics of 'The intergenerational transmission of partnering'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this