A Journey into the Extended Family
POLITICAL SCIENCES |

A Journey into the Extended Family

WHAT IMPACT DOES THE BIRTH OF A CHILD HAVE WHEN ONE OF THE PARTNERS ALREADY HAS OTHERS FROM A PREVIOUS RELATIONSHIP? THE RESULTS OF A RESEARCH BY NICOLETTA BALBO

Literature on extended families is a fast spreading strand of the sociological studies of the family. Questions traditionally posed in works on family are now applied to a new context: does a newborn child contribute to the family’s happiness? What is the division of household labor? Research has focused so far on measuring the well-being of common children in stepfamilies, i.e. children from a previous union living in a new household where partners have a common offspring.
 
Nicoletta Balbo (Bocconi) and Katya Ivanova (University of Amsterdam) took a different path and studied the relationship between having a common child in stepfamilies and partners’ relationship satisfaction. The authors of Cementing the Stepfamily? Biological and Stepparents’ Relationship Satisfaction after the Birth of a Common Child in Stepfamilies based their analysis on the Panel Analysis of Intimate Relationships and Family Dynamics, a survey of the German population which was launched in 2008. A sample of randomly selected persons of three birth cohorts (1991-93, 1981-83, and 1971-73) has filled out a survey on a yearly basis.
 
“According to the data, referring to 512 families, having a common child is linked to higher satisfaction over time”, professor Balbo says. The researchers also looked at the differences between the two partners. “For those whose common child is between one and three years-old, that is, when the caring load is heavier, there is a temporarily lower relationship satisfaction for the biological parent of all children in the union”. The explanation lies in the unequal division of household labor. The biological parent of all children is very often female, and she handles most of the homemaking tasks and family responsibilities.

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by Claudio Todesco

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