Social Network Characteristics of Early Midlife Voluntarily and Involuntarily Childless Couples

Abstract

Whether couples have children or remain childless has largely been associated with individual and couple characteristics.
We propose that the broader social network additionally differentiates between parents and childless couples, particularly
between involuntarily and voluntarily childless couples. In light of this, we studied social network differences and their
interplay with dyadic and individual characteristics in three types of couples with and without children, in a sample of 248
German early-midlife adults (n = 41 voluntarily childless, n = 35 involuntarily childless, n = 48 traditional parental dyads). A multinomial logistic regression analysis revealed that social network characteristics
distinguished between voluntarily and involuntarily childless individuals. Additionally, attitudes toward children differed
substantially across types of couples, whereas levels of partnership distress did not. Findings provide new insights into
the significance of the social network above and beyond dyadic and individual characteristics in early-midlife couples with
and without children.

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