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The ripple effect in family networks

Relational structures and well-being in divorced and non-divorced families
PhD ceremony:Ms V. (Vera) de Bel
When:June 25, 2020
Supervisors:prof. dr. M.A.J. (Marijtje) van Duijn, prof. dr. T.A.B. (Tom) Snijders
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Behavioural and Social Sciences
The ripple effect in family networks

Over the last 50 years, the divorce rate in Europe has doubled. This thesis investigates why some families fare better than others after parental divorce regarding relationship quality, conflict and well-being. Parental divorce not only affects relationships in the nuclear family, i.e., parents and children, but also extended family members, i.e., grandparents and aunts/uncles. Extended family members can also be an important source of support for nuclear family members after divorce. First, we investigated the structure and nature of the interdependence of family relationships. In the nuclear family, we found that the quality of the relations between two siblings strongly depends on the relationships both siblings have with their parents. Studying the larger family network and comparing divorced and non-divorced families, we found that contact between the three generations is lower in divorced families compared to non-divorced families. Less frequent contact with one side of the family goes together with more frequent contact with the other side, similarly for divorced and non-divorced families. Second, we investigated how family relationships affect well-being. We analysed ambivalent, i.e., simultaneously positive and negative, family relationships of mothers and found that the pattern of ambivalent triads in which mothers are embedded has consequences for her well-being. In the final study, for which family network data were collected among divorced and non-divorced families in Lifelines, we showed that emotional combined with practical support from others in the family contributes to family members’  well-being. No differences were found between divorced and non-divorced families in these respects.