Stepfathers and biological fathers: education-specific roles of fatherhood following a divorce

Sofie Vanassche, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Christine Schnor, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Jan Van Bavel, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Education has been found to play a key role in diverging life courses. While many studies have addressed education as a factor in divorce, we still know little about its role in post-divorce life course transitions – especially among men. Men are commonly assigned the role of economic providers in the family and education informs about their capacity to fulfill this role. Yet, having biological ties to residential children can determine the man’s willingness to step in the provider role. This study investigates how education is linked to fatherhood roles after divorce, distinguishing between biological father and stepfather roles. Using life course data for 1,111 divorced Belgian men and event history model techniques, we show that divorced men’s family situation depend on their educational levels. More educated men are more often in the role of a residential biological father, whereas the less educated men are more often stepfathers. Men’s residential arrangement for first-marriage children, their selection into a new union and the parental status of their new partner help explaining educational differences in post-divorce father roles. Highly educated men live more often with their children from first marriage and repartner more often and especially women without own residential children, which is beneficial for their transition to a post-divorce birth. The findings lead to suggest that among the less educated both capacity and willingness to support the post-divorce family are lower. These education-specific pathways of post-divorce fatherhood are likely to enhance social inequalities.

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Presented in Session 96: Gender issues in sexual and reproductive health