MPIDR Working Paper

Re-partnering and single mothers' mental health and life satisfaction trajectories

MPIDR Working Paper WP-2023-001, 58 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (February 2023)
Open Access


Single mothers are a particularly disadvantaged group in terms of their mental health and life satisfaction. While it is plausible that re-partnering could compensate for these disadvantages by providing social, emotional, and financial resources, the evidence is inconclusive. Using annual panel data from Germany (1984-2020) and the United Kingdom (1991-2020), this study examines the life satisfaction and mental health trajectories around re-partnering transitions among single mothers. The guiding questions are whether re-partnering has positive (resource model) or negative (crisis model) effects on the outcomes, and whether the effects depend on the national context. Fixed-effects regressions reveal effects among 1,675 single mothers. Results show that life satisfaction is positively affected by re-partnering in both Germany and the UK, mainly driven by income-related factors. The effects on mental health differ more, with an increasing trajectory in Germany and a declining trajectory after the re-partnering transition in the UK. Overall, the findings indicate that re-partnering is beneficial, especially for the life satisfaction of single mothers, and highlight the importance of financial resources and family policies.

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.