The social stratification in parent-child relationships after separation: Evidence from Italy




parental separation, intergenerational relations, parent-child contact, educational gradient, Italy


Objective: We investigate the association between parental separation during childhood and later parent-child contact frequency and whether it varies according to parental gender and education.

Background: Separated parents, particularly fathers, have fewer contacts with their adult children than partnered parents. However, recent research suggests that highly educated parents are more involved, as they invest more in children before and after union dissolution.

Method: Using data on young adult children (18-40) from two Italian surveys, random intercept models adjusted for sample selection bias were adopted to analyse the association between parental separation and later parent-child contact frequency.

Results: Our findings show that adult children who experienced parental separation have less frequent face-to-face and phone contact with their parents. The negative association is stronger among fathers, but mother-child face-to-face interactions are also affected. Higher education does not reduce the effect of separation but even worsens it, at least with regard to face-to-face contact frequency.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that in a country like Italy, characterised by a limited occurrence of separations and a traditional division of gender roles, particularly within the analysed parental cohorts, higher parental education does not mitigate the negative effects of divorce on parent-child relationships but may even exacerbate them.


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How to Cite

Tosi, M., & Guetto, R. (2024). The social stratification in parent-child relationships after separation: Evidence from Italy. Journal of Family Research, 36, 25–42.