Parents’ Expectations About Childrearing After Divorce: Does Anticipating Difficulty Deter Divorce?


Department of Sociology/ICS, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 80104, 3508 TC, Utrecht, The Netherlands (


Divorce is costly for parents because of the challenges of meeting children’s economic and socioemotional needs after separation. Using the National Survey of Families and Households (N= 1,935), we investigate whether expected economic and parenting costs deter divorce. Mothers expect higher economic costs than fathers, whereas fathers expect more parenting difficulties. Most parents, however, expect high economic and parenting costs. In a large minority of families, mothers and fathers differ in their expected costs. Parenting costs deter divorce, but economic costs do not once other family characteristics are controlled. When parents disagree, mothers’ parenting concerns are a greater barrier to divorce than fathers’ concerns. Finally, parenting costs are a greater barrier to divorce for unhappy than happy couples.