Process and Event: The Effects of Parental Separation on Adolescents’ Life Satisfaction



Juho Härkönen, Professor of Sociology, European University Institute

Generations of family scholars have debated whether parental divorce affects children's well-being. Building on this research, we analyzed the effect of the parental separation process on British adolescents’ life satisfaction, using data on 6,230 youths aged 10-15 from the British Household Panel Study and the UK Household Longitudinal Study. Our panel regression models confirm that the parental divorce process has a negative effect on youths’ life satisfaction, which begins to decline approximately two years before the parental divorce is observed. However, the event of parental separation does not have any additional negative effect on adolescents' life satisfactions. We discuss our results in the light of the discussions of (parental) separation both as a discrete event and a longitudinal process.

Juho Härkönen is Professor of Sociology at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, Italy, while on leave from Stockholm University. He received his PhD from the EUI in 2007, was postdoc at Yale from 2007 to 2009 and at Stockholm University until joining the EUI in 2018. His research covers family demography, social stratification, the life course, and health. He is Co-Editor of Advances in Life Course Research, and Co-Director of the Comparative Life Course and Inequality Research Centre at the EUI, and of Florence Population Studies.

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