Reading questions for week 6 - Remarriage and Stepfamilies

On McDonald and DeMaris’ article

1. Which statistical model is used in this article? What are seemingly unrelated regression (SUR) equations? Why do authors have to do three comparative analyses? And which analyses are employed?

2. Cherlin raised a question about the “incomplete institutionalization” of remarriage in the U.S. Cohabitation appears to be even less institutionalized than remarriage, yet cohabiting stepfamilies are becoming an increasingly prominent type of family structure (Bumpass et al.). To what extent the level of conflict in cohabiting unions involving stepchildren might be similar to, or different from, that in remarriages with stepchildren?

3. Does it matter for family conflict whether a husband or a wife is a biological parent of a stepchild? To what extent does the gender of stepchild(ren) matter? (MacDonald and DeMaris don’t consider this question).

4. MacDonald and DeMaris focus only on racially homogamous married couples. Is it important to look at less traditional unions, e.g., mixed-racial couples or gay and lesbian stepfamilies? Or can we assume that the findings of MacDonald and DeMaris can be generalized to stepfamilies in different populations?

5. The cross-sectional data used by MacDonald and DeMaris preclude the tests of selection into remarriage. To which extent is it a problem? E.g., because Blacks are less likely to formalize marital unions and are more likely to cohabit than Whites, Blacks in the NSFH who formalized their remarriage might be a very selective group.

6. MacDonald and DeMaris use total household income as one of the predictors in their model. In the context of their study (the focus on conflict), is it a good measure of income? Would it make sense to use other measures, such as per capita income, or the husband’s and wife’s individual incomes?

7. Overall, MacDonald and DeMaris don’t find support for Cherlin’s hypothesis. Yet, they focus only on one possible type of inter-family conflict––marital conflict. How likely is it that they would have found support for the “incomplete institutionalization” prediction had they examined other types of conflict, such as conflict among stepsiblings or among stepparents and stepchildren?

8. Bumpass et al. argue that for a substantial proportion of couples, life in stepfamily begins with cohabitation. Do you think that controlling only for marital duration (as MacDonald and DeMaris do) might be a problem? This question gains more importance if you take it into account that MacDonald and DeMaris support Papernow’s hypothesis on stepfamily development. In other words, if we follow Papernow’s terminologies, reunion through cohabitation can be viewed as a “fantasy” stage and remarriage as an “immersion” stage. In this case, two phases have to be distinguished. How do you think about this reasoning?

On Bumpass et al.’s article

9. What are the additional strengths to include cohabiting stepfamilies into stepfamilies and nonmarital childbearing as a transition into stepfamilies? What are the differences and similarity from traditional definition? What implications can we find?

10. Bumpass et al. “excluded from stepfamily definition all unions formed within a year of nonmarital birth” in order to avoid incorrect inclusion of marriage with the child’s father. This procedure includes marriages of two biological parents at later time but excludes some stepfamilies formed within a year of the child’s birth. As the authors say, are the errors not likely to be large? Don’t you think the number of cohabiting stepfamilies is inflated by this assumption?

11. Bumpass et al. construct their estimates only for women. How might the patterns they describe differ by gender? E.g., men are more likely to remarry after martial disruption than women, while women are more likely to bring their biological children into a new union than men.

On Sweeney’s article

12. The author utilizes WLS data. Don’t you think the results described in this article are hugely influenced by the nature of this data? For example, if we use more recent cohort, can we get the same result? You have to keep in mind the unstable and unprofitable employment situation of postindustrial society. And what’s the implication of your argument on concentration of poverty?

13. Sweeney considers the effect of socioeconomic prospects on remarriage after divorce. Could there be differences (different slopes) in the effects of SES on other types of union formation, such as first marriage, marriage after cohabitation, remarriage after widowhood, or remarriage of a higher order?

14. Sweeney considers selection into remarriage based on socioeconomic resources. Research shows that another important selective mechanism is based on health. Is it worthwhile examining how these two types of resources (socioeconomic and health) interact in their effect on remarriage after divorce?

15. Sweeney’s models do not include time elapsed between divorce (or, more precisely, separation) and remarriage. Research suggests an inverted U-shaped relationship between time since marital disruption and the probability of remarriage. To what extent does the impact of SES on the risk of remarriage interact with the effect of time elapsed since divorce?

16. Sweeney finds some interesting results for determinants of women’s remarriage, while she finds few things theoretically interesting on men’s remarriage. One of the problems may be related with measures she deploys. More specifically, as a socioeconomic prospects, occupation seems to be not an appropriate predictor. And the author also mentions that income can be more powerful explanatory variable. Don’t you think wealth a man has is more important variable, especially as he gets older?

On Thomson et al’s article

17. Thomson et al. examine the reports of children aged 10-17 at the time of the interview. Thus, they may overlook changes in mothering behaviors towards younger children. Is it feasible to expect that the effect of remarriage on parental behavior is contingent on a child’s age? E.g., a woman’s improved economic situation after remarriage can make outside childcare more affordable, which in turn might decrease the time very young children spend with their mothers.

18. Thomson et al. argue that the presence of a partner inhibits mothering behaviors involving harsh discipline. Yet, Thomson et al. don’t examine how the partner presence might exert such an effect. Which analysis could we suggest to test specific pathways that might lead to the decline in harsh discipline upon remarriage?

19. This article deals with change of mother’ caring for her own biological child. What if stepchild(ren) exists? Isn’t it reasonable to assume that mother behave differently in case of presence of stepchild(ren)? Can the same logic described here apply to the father’s caring for his biological child(ren)?

Across articles

20. Most studies of stepfamilies focus on families with children under 18. Little is known, for example, about stepfamilies after nest leaving. How do children who leave parental home interact with stepparents? Do adult children still continue to impact marital relationships of their parent and stepparent?

21. Most studies of remarriage and stepchildren have been based on relatively young men and women. Because more women and men are becoming parents in their 30s and 40s, the age of people who enter new unions having children under 18 is also increasing. What implications does this demographic trend have for remarriages in future cohorts?

22. All the articles assume that ex-partner don’t contact with his biological child(ren), which is rare case. Then, what is the implication of presence of biological father and how can we modify the models discussed above such as marital conflicts and mothering behavior?