The long reach of divorce: Divorce and child well-being across three generations


Department of Sociology, The Pennsylvania State University, 201 Oswald Tower, University Park, PA 16802-6207 (


We used data from the study of Marital Instability Over the Life Course to examine links between divorce in the grandparent generation and outcomes in the grandchild generation (N= 691). Divorce in the first (G1) generation was associated with lower education, more marital discord, weaker ties with mothers, and weaker ties with fathers in the third (G3) generation. These associations were mediated by family characteristics in the middle (G2) generation, including lower education, more marital discord, more divorce, and greater tension in early parent-child relationships. In supplementary analyses, we found no evidence that the estimated effects of divorce differed by offspring gender or became weaker over time. Our results suggest that divorce has consequences for subsequent generations, including individuals who were not yet born at the time of the original divorce.