Intergenerational transmission of parent-child relationship quality in Germany

Karsten Hank, University of Cologne
Veronika Salzburger, University of Cologne
Merril Silverstein, Syracuse University

There is a long-standing tradition in social science research assessing intergenerational transmission processes. However, barely any attention has yet been devoted to the transmission of relationship quality between multiple generations of family members. Exploiting data from the German Family Panel (pairfam), we estimate multilevel models to investigate whether the quality of the relationship between parents (G2) and the (grand-)parent generation (G1) predicts the relationship quality of parents (G2) and their children (G3). Our findings provide clear evidence for an intergenerational transmission of positive (emotional closeness) and negative (conflict) relationship qualities as well as ambivalence. A hypothesis proposing an effect of different socio-cultural contexts in East and West Germany found no support, though. We neither found differences between grandmother and grandfather ties, nor between cohorts. The main results also remained robust against an alternative specification of our outcome variables. The paper concludes with a discussion of limitations and perspectives for future research.

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Presented in Session 33: Quality of intergenerational ties