More Kin, Less Support: Multipartnered Fertility and Perceived Support among Mothers

Kristen Harknett, University of Pennsylvania
Jean T. Knab, Princeton University

Recent research has documented the high prevalence of having children with more than one partner, termed “multipartnered fertility.” Because childbearing is an important mechanism for building kin networks, we theorize that multipartnered fertility will influence the availability of social support for mothers. Analyzing three waves of data from the Fragile Families study (N = 12,132), we find that multipartnered fertility is negatively associated with the availability of instrumental support, particularly financial support. Our longitudinal evidence suggests a bidirectional relationship in which multipartnered fertility reduces the availability of support, and the availability of support inhibits multipartnered fertility. We conclude that smaller and denser kin networks seem to be superior to broader but weaker kin ties in terms of perceived instrumental support.

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Presented in Session 176: Multi-partnered Fertility