Interdependencies in Mothers' and Daughters’ Work-Family Life Course Trajectories: Similar but Different?

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Sergi Vidal, Philipp M. Lersch, Marita Jacob, Karsten Hank

In: Demography 57 (2020), S. 1483–1511


Women’s life courses underwent substantial changes in the family and work domains in the second half of the twentieth century. The associated fundamental changes in opportunity structures and values challenged the importance of families of origin for individual life courses, but two research strands suggest enduring within-family reproduction of women’s family behavior and work outcomes. We revisit this issue by studying two complementary types of intergenerational associations in women’s combined work-family trajectories. On the one hand, we examine similarities across mothers’ and daughters’ work-family trajectories to address the direct within-family reproduction of female life courses (intergenerational persistence). On the other hand, we examine systematic associations between work-family trajectories that are typical in each generation to address intergenerational interdependencies beyond direct reproduction that account for individual and societal constrains and opportunities that each generation faced (intergenerational correspondence). We use a within-dyad approach to sequence analysis and examine combined work-family trajectories between ages 18 and 35 of two generations of women, born in 1930–1949 and in 1958–1981, within the same family drawn from the German Socio-Economic Panel. Overall, we find evidence of small but nontrivial persistence in work-family trajectories across generations that is partly attributed to within-family mechanisms of reproduction. In addition, we find correspondence across typical trajectory patterns of each generation, without daughters necessarily resembling their mothers’ trajectories. The strength of the intergenerational associations varies by social background. Our research improves and broadens our understanding of the reproduction of female life courses across generations.

Keywords: Intergenerational transmission , women, life course, sequence analysis, Germany