9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN13 Sociology of Families and Intimate Lives

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 The Social Construction of Parenting Building II, Auditório B1.03

Educational heterogamy: What are the consequences for the rearing of and relation with children in the family?

Heterogamous marriages have been found to be characterized by a higher risk of low marital satisfaction and divorce. This has been attributed to the possible presence of social disapproval, and cultural differences between the partners. Implicit in this explanation is the idea that heterogamous couples can be discerned from the beginning of their relationship. If this is of importance for marital quality and divorce, it should also affect other aspects of the family to an important extent.
In the article, we aim to draw attention to the possible specificity of heterogamous couples in domains other than divorce and marital satisfaction. We examine the following question: What is the role of heterogamy for the rearing of and relation with children in the family? Given the relatively increased importance of education in contemporary partner choice, we focus on couples that are heterogamous in terms of educational level. For these couples, we examine the association between educational differences and different aspects of child rearing such as behavioural problems of the child, parent-child relations, parental depression, social support for the parents and child-rearing satisfaction. We also examine the possible explanatory value of the degree of cultural differences and marital conflict. We hypothesise that there is a positive association between educational heterogamy and child-rearing problems, that can in large part be explained by the elevated risk of cultural differences and marital conflict in heterogamous couples.
After analyzing multi-actor data from 632 families in the dataset 'Child-rearing and family in the Netherlands' we find that educational heterogamy leads to reports of lower child-rearing satisfaction by both parents, more perceived behavioural problems among children, an increase in parental depression among fathers, and less perceived support by fathers. These findings are especially strong among couples in which the woman is of high and the man of low educational status. The inclusion of the intermediate variables - especially the degree of marital conflict - explains a large part of this association. This shows that the basic differences between homogamous and heterogamous couples permeate the family in a way that has affects beyond just marital satisfaction and divorce risk.