Children of Separation: An International Profile

Zuzana Zilincikova, Jan Skopek, Thomas Leopold


This study offers a comprehensive international overview of children from separated families across 13 countries, with an emphasis on the European context. We investigate changes in the number of children experiencing parental separation over birth cohorts (1960–1989) and changes in their social composition using data from Generations and Gender Survey and official statistics. Results on absolute numbers highlight the impact of demographic shifts and complement previous research that focused on the relative risk of experiencing parental separation. We show that declining fertility rates have, in most countries, mitigated the rise in the number of children affected by increasing separation rates. Moreover, a large majority of contemporary children of separation are born to higher-educated mothers, demonstrating that the spread of education across parent cohorts outweighed educational risk gradients in shaping the socio-economic background of children of separation. These findings improve our demographic understanding of children of separation and inform policy targeting family disruption as a social problem and allocating resources to address it.

In: Population and Development Review (forthcoming).

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