Loose ties? Determinants of father-child contact after separation in Germany

Heike Trappe, University of Rostock
Michaela Kreyenfeld, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Katja Köppen, University of Rostock

With the increase in separation and divorce rates, non-resident fathers have become a growing group in all European countries. The contact that these fathers keep with their children is a policy relevant issue which has been intensively addressed in prior studies for English-speaking countries. For continental Europe there has been far less research on this topic. In this paper, we use newly available data from the German Family panel (pairfam) to study the determinants of father-child contact after separation. We find that non-residential fatherhood is considerably more prevalent in the eastern than in the western states of Germany. In both parts of the country, non-resident fathers are less educated and more often unemployed than resident fathers. Fathers who were married at childbirth more regularly see their children than cohabiting fathers or fathers in less institutionalized relationships, like living apart together relationships (LAT). However, after accounting for joint custody, we do no longer find differences in father-child contact by union status at birth. It is also shown that the positive association between joint custody and father-child contact is independent of the marital status at childbirth. The union and fertility history of the father, in particular whether he has children with a new partner, is another important factor which impacts the frequency of contact between non-resident fathers and their minor children.

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Presented in Session 32: New roles of women and men and societal implications in diverse policy contexts