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Intergenerational interplays of partnership breakdown and mental well-being

John Hobcraft, University of York

This paper considers interplays over the life-course and across generations between mental well-being and partnership breakdown. We use the British Cohort Study of 1970, including detailed information from birth, ages 5, and 16 during childhood, and 30 in adulthood. We identify partnership breakdown for mothers and the cohort members and use measures of mental well-being for the mothers and behaviour inventories for the cohort members during childhood. The paper explores both intragenerational continuities in and the intergenerational ‘inheritance’ of mental well-being and partnership behaviours, especially partnership breakdown. These detailed analyses also inform understanding on the mechanisms and precursors underlying partnership breakdown and mental well-being. The paper concludes that depression matters for partnership behaviour but that partnership behaviour also matters for depression. There is evidence for intragenerational and intergenerational ‘transmission’ of both depression and divorce. Some of the possible reasons for these linkages are discussed and linked to the existing literature.

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Presented in Session 51: Union dissolution and remarriage