Out-of-wedlock births and later life: the effect of adverse conditions surrounding single-parenthood in childhood and subsequent social and health outcomes

Bárbara Revuelta Eugercios, Lund University

Historical research on the relationship between early life factors on social performance and later life health has found that external and household and family level characteristics were at play in determining future outcomes, in parallel to what has been done in contemporary studies. While some measures of household composition have been studied in historical settings, one factor that has not been sufficiently addressed in literature so far is the effect that being born out-of-wedlock had in later life outcomes. Non-marital fertility has been addressed both in relation to the circumstances driving its occurrence and its direct effects on child health. The findings on this research point to the existence of the so-called “illegitimacy mortality penalty”: infant and early childhood mortality of children born out of wedlock was significantly higher than that of children born inside marriages. Relatively less research has been directed towards studying its effect across life course. Biological pathways as well as psycho-social stressors has been described as causal mechanism involved in the effects of out-of-wedlock births on worse future outcomes. However, they are difficult to tease apart. Addressing out-of-wedlock births in historical time is a difficult task as different pathways that could lead to an out-of-wedlock birth, there are different selection processes involved in their registration, etc. Thus, a careful approach to selection, registration and change over time is required to tackle this task. In this paper our aim will be to test whether the adverse health outcomes as well as social performance disadvantages (through direct or indirect effects) that are generally associated to an out-of-wedlock births can found seen for Southern Sweden in the period from mid-19th century to mid-20th century.We will use the Scania Economic Demographic Dataset for the period 1830-1968 a key period of growing out-of-wedlock births in a rather homogeneous rural setting.

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Presented in Poster Session 3

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