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Kirsten van Houdt

About me

I am a postdoctoral researcher at the Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI). My main research interests are families, parent-child relations, and life-courses. During my PhD (University of Amsterdam) I was part of the team collecting the OKiN data and studied adult parent-child relations in stepfamilies.

My current work is part of the Interlocking Inequalities (MINQ) project and focuses on socioeconomic inequalities in the consequences of family instability. More specifically, I consider the role of post-separation housing careers and sibling relations.




A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Adult (step) parent-child relationships in complex families

    2021. Kirsten van Houdt. Journal of Family Studies


    This study identifies a typology of adult stepparent-child and biological parent-child relationships by studying the structures in which relationship dimensions - affection, contact, support, and conflict - combine, building on the intergenerational solidarity paradigm. The existing literature on family complexity, which has analysed parent-child relationships one-dimensionally, and exclusively considered positive dimensions, requires a more integrated approach to describe the diverse landscape of (step)parent-child relationships. Using the OKiN anchor data, based on a stratified random sample of Dutch adults (aged 25-45), this study simultaneously analysed closeness, contact, support, and conflict in stepparent-child (N = 3,896) and biological parentchild relationships (N = 9,467), using latent profile analysis (LPA). These data provided adults' reports on up to four relationships to their (step)parents. LPA revealed four relationship profiles among biological parent-child as well as stepparent-child dyads: harmonious, ambivalent, detached, and conflictual. One relationship profile, disharmonious, was unique for step-dyads. Although the distribution over these profiles differs between stepdyads and biological dyads, it seems more strongly differentiated by parental separation, co-residential history, and parental gender. This study reveals the multi-dimensional diversity that lies beneath the comparison of averages of single dimensions of parent-child relationships, and calls for more nuance in studying family ties.

    Read more about Adult (step) parent-child relationships in complex families
  • Like My Own Children

    2021. Kirsten van Houdt. Journal of Family Issues


    The different dimensions of parenthood-for example, biological relatedness, child-rearing, co-residence-are disconnected in increasingly many families as the result of upward trends in separation and repartnering. By studying stepparents' claiming (i.e., stepparents perceiving their adult stepchildren as their own), this study provides insight into how people define kinship and adds a new dimension to knowledge about stepfamilies. Using the Ouders en Kinderen in Nederland (OKiN) survey data, this study (a) provides nationally representative estimates of how Dutch stepmothers and -fathers (N = 3,327) perceive their adult stepchildren and (b) shows how the context (i.e., co-residence, duration, timing, marriage) and relations to biological children relate to stepparents' claiming. The more similar the context is to traditional parent-child relations, the more stepparents claim their stepchildren. As opposed to the expectation that relations to one's own biological children would serve as an important reference, having biological children from either a previous or current relationship has little explanatory power.

    Read more about Like My Own Children

Show all publications by Kirsten van Houdt at Stockholm University