Geographical distances between separated parents: A longitudinal analysis

Many Western societies have witnessed long-term trends of increased separation and divorce, increased fathers’ involvement in parenting and the interrelated growth in extended-family complexity. Upon separation, many separated parents will feel a need to remain close to the ex-partner because they want to share parenting responsibilities or facilitate regular child visitation. In this context, an increasingly substantial body of work has emerged documenting the influence of separation on mobility and migration processes.

Utilising detailed geocoded microdata from 18 waves of the British Household Panel Survey and longitudinal random-effects models, this presentation discusses the determinants and trajectories of geographical distances between separated parents.

Findings of particular note include the following: (1) post-separation linked lives, proximities and spatial constraints are characterised by important gender asymmetries; (2) the formation of new post-separation family ties (i.e. new partners and children) by fathers is linked to moves over longer distances away from the ex-partner than for mothers; (3) the distribution of pre-separation childcare responsibilities is relevant for determining post-separation proximity between parents; and (4) most variation in the distance between ex-partners occurs in the immediate period following separation (approximately the first year), suggesting that the initial conditions around separation can have long-lasting implications for the types of family life, ties and contact experienced in the years after separation.

Michael Thomas, University of Groningen