The Influence of Parents’ Marital Quality on Adult Children’s Attitudes toward Marriage and its Alternatives: Main and Moderating Effects

Mick Cunningham, Western Washington University

Drawing on a panel study of parents and children, we investigate linkages between parents’ marital quality and adult children’s attitudes toward a range of family issues including premarital sex, cohabitation, lifelong singlehood, and divorce. We hypothesize that parents’ marital quality will influence children’s support for these behaviors in adulthood, and also that parents’ marital quality will condition the intergenerational transmission of these attitudes. We find some evidence that parents’ marital quality is negatively associated with children’s support for divorce and premarital sex. More importantly, our analyses show that parents’ marital quality facilitates the intergenerational transmission of attitudes. Parents’ attitudes toward premarital sex, cohabitation, and being single are more strongly linked to those same attitudes among their adult children when parents’ marital quality is high than when it is low.

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Presented in Session 175: Attitudes toward Union Formation