MPIDR Working Paper

Differences in family policy and the intergenerational transmission of divorce: a comparison between the former East and West Germany

Engelhardt, H., Trappe, H., Dronkers, J.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2002-008
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (February 2002)
Also published in: Demographic Research 6, 295-324 (2002). Internet:
Open Access


The intergenerational transmission of the risk of divorce is a well-known long-term effect of divorce that has been found in many Western societies. Less known is the extent to which different family policies and divorce laws have an effect on the intergenerational transmission of divorce. In this paper, the division of Germany into two separate states from 1949 until 1990, with the consequent development of two very different family policies, is regarded as a natural experiment that enables us to investigate the effect of family policy on the mechanisms underlying the social inheritance of divorce. Data from respondents from the former East and West Germany participating in the German Life History Study are analyzed, using multivariate event-history methods. The results indicate that the strength of the intergenerational divorce transmission, when adjusted for differences in the divorce level, was lower in the East than in the West. Differences in marriage age and the timing of first birth, which are partial indicators of family policy, as well as differences in religion, could explain this effect. Furthermore, we found a tendency towards a reduction in the dynamics of divorce transmission over time, both in East and West Germany.
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.