Repartnering and Childbearing After Divorce: Differences According to Parental Status and Custodial Arrangements

Sofie Vanassche, Martine Corijn, Koen Matthijs, Gray Swicegood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We use a stepfamily formation perspective to study two dimensions of the family life course following the dissolution of a first marriage. First, we examine how the presence of children from a prior union and the custody arrangements of those children influence the process of repartnering. In doing so, we extend the traditional explanations of union formation in terms of needs, attractiveness, and opportunities by taking into account the parental status of the new partners and a detailed classification of the custody arrangement of the children. Next, we investigate the likelihood of childbearing within those post-separation unions with a particular emphasis on the prior parental status of both partners. By studying post-separation union formation and fertility behavior together, we get a more complete depiction of stepfamily formation especially in their more complex forms. Our analyses are based on survey data for 2077 divorced men and 2384 divorced women collected in the Divorce in Flanders study. The results show that compared with other divorcees, full-time residential parents are the least likely to start a new union following separation and that parents are more likely to start a union with another parent than with a childless partner. Several of our results suggest that parenthood may not be a particularly attractive status on the partner market. Potential partners without children themselves appear especially reluctant to assume a (residential) step parental role. In contrast with the results for union formation, it is not the custody arrangement of the child(ren) but parental status itself that predicts childbearing within higher order unions. Our findings are important from a policy perspective as they stress the consequences of gender-neutral childrearing patterns following divorce for the repartnering of women after separation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)761-784
Number of pages24
JournalPopulation Research and Policy Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 13 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Childrearing responsibilities
  • Joint custody
  • Parental status
  • Post-divorce childbearing
  • Post-divorce repartnering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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