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Influence of the Marital History of Parents on the Marital and Cohabitational Experiences of Children

Publication Abstract

Thornton, Arland. 1991. "Influence of the Marital History of Parents on the Marital and Cohabitational Experiences of Children." American Journal of Sociology, 96(4): 868-94.

This article examines the influence of mothers' marital histories on the cohabitational and marital experiences of their children. Significant factors include whether the mother was pregnant at marriage, her age at marriage, and her experience with marital disruption and remarriage. The analysis is conducted within an event-history framework that controls from other features of the parental home, including socioeconomic status and religious affiliation. The evidence suggests that the children of mothers who married young and were pregnant at marriage entered into their own marital and nonmarital unions significantly earlier than others. The experience of parental marital dissolution increases children's non-marital cohabitations but has little effect on their marriages. While no single causal mechanism can easily account for all of the empirical data, the combination of different attitudes toward marriage, nonmarital sex, and cohabitation can account for the empirical findings.

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