In the 1960s, William J. Goode predicted that the originally absent or even positive association between class and divorce will become increasingly negative as modernisation lowers the legal, social and economic barriers to divorce. This long-forgotten hypothesis has regained attention in the past fifteen years, together with a broader recognition of the growing stratification in family demography, often referred to as diverging destinies . Family dissolution is a central component of this stratification. Given its mostly negative effects on the well-being of adults and children, increasing stratification of family dissolution has led researchers to focus on the reproduction of inequalities over the life course as well as across generations. How solid is the evidence on the linkage between family dissolution and social stratification? We take stock of this evidence using a risk and vulnerability perspective.
First, we review the research on educational differences in family dissolution (stratification in risk) and ask how strong the evidence is, from a cross-national perspective, for an increasingly negative educational gradient of separation. Second, we examine the explanations given for the (increasing) stratification in family dissolution. Third, we review the literature on the effects of family dissolution on adults and children and ask whether these effects are moderated by socioeconomic status (stratification in vulnerability). We discuss recommendations for future research and for interpreting the role of family dissolution in the reproduction of social inequality.