Childbearing across Partnerships in Europe and the United States
Decreasing family stability has generated increases in “multipartner fertility” or having children with more than one partner. Most studies of the phenomenon include descriptive information, but vary in the way the population at risk is defined and sometimes in the measurement method.
This study uses comparable data and the same measurement method to generate descriptive information about the prevalence of childbearing across partnerships in 14 European countries and the United States.
We use birth and union histories from the Harmonized Histories, most of which are based on Generation and Gender Surveys. We identify the union spells in which each child is born to determine whether all of the respondent’s children are born in the same union or some are born in different union spells, the latter defined as childbearing with more than one partner.
The percentage of parents with at least two children, who have had children with more than one partner, ranges from just over 6 % to over 20 %, with slightly higher percentages for mothers than fathers. As expected, percentages are higher for parents with more children. Parents are most likely to make the transition to multi-partner parenthood at the second birth, especially if the first birth occurs outside a coresidential union.
The estimates provide a basis for cross-national analyses of change and variability in childbearing across partnerships.