The German Family Panel (pairfam)

Resource Type
Dataset : Survey and aggregate data
  • Brüderl, Josef (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
  • Drobnič, Sonja (Universität Bremen)
  • Hank, Karsten (Universität zu Köln)
  • Neyer, Franz. J. (Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena)
  • Walper, Sabine (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
  • Alt, Philipp (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
  • Bozoyan, Christiane (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
  • Finn, Christine (Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena)
  • Frister, Renate (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
  • Garrett, Madison (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
  • Gonzalez Avilés, Tita (Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena)
  • Greischel, Henriette (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
  • Gröpler, Nicolai (Universität Bremen)
  • Hajek, Kristin (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
  • Herzig, Michel (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
  • Huyer-May, Bernadette (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
  • Lenke, Rüdiger (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
  • Minkus, Lara (Universität Bremen)
  • Peter, Timo (Universität Bremen)
  • Reim, Julia (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
  • Schmiedeberg, Claudia (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
  • Schütze, Philipp (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
  • Schumann, Nina (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
  • Thönnissen, Carolin (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
  • Wetzel, Martin (Universität zu Köln)
  • Wilhelm, Barbara (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
Other Title
  • Panel Analysis of Intimate Relationships and Family Dynamics (Alternative Title)
Publication Date
  • Kantar Public (former TNS Infratest Sozialforschung) (Data Collector)
  • GESIS (Distributor)
  • GESIS (Hosting Institution)
  • ZA:
    • Society, Culture
    • Family
    • Education, School Systems
    • Person, Personality, Role
  • CESSDA Topic Classification:
    • Family life and marriage
    • Children
    • Childbearing, family planning and abortion
    • Health
    • Education
    • Social stratification and groupings
  • Abstract

    The German Family Panel pairfam is a multidisciplinary, longitudinal study on partnership and family dynamics in Germany, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The annually collected survey data from a nationwide random sample of more than 12,000 persons of the three birth cohorts 1971-73, 1981-83, 1991-93 and their partners, parents and children offer unique opportunities for the analysis of partner and intergenerational relationships as they develop over the course of multiple life phases. A comprehensive description of the conceptual framework and the design of the German Family Panel is given in the concept paper by Huinink et al. (2011). The data from the three waves of the supplemental DemoDiff study as well as data from the step-up respondents are also included in the Scientific Use File (SUF). DemoDiff is a parallel study of East German anchor respondents from the birth cohorts 1971-73 and 1981-83, as well as their partners, funded by the Max-Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock. The first wave of the DemoDiff study began with a one-year delay after the pairfam study; the last DemoDiff wave coincided with the fourth pairfam wave. From Wave 5, the DemoDiff respondents were integrated into the pairfam sample. Step-up respondents are former respondents of the child survey that have turned 15 and now participate in the main anchor survey. These step-up respondents have been surveyed since Wave 4, their data saved in separate data sets. In Wave 11, the two youngest birth cohorts (1981-1983 and 1991-1993) were refreshed alongside a new sample from a younger birth cohort (2001-2003). In total, over 5,000 new respondents plus their partners and children were interviewed. The oldest birth cohort (1971-1973) was not refreshed. The question program for the refreshment sample is almost identical to that of the original sample. Some questions designed for repeat-participants were not posed, and refreshment sample respondents additionally answered questions posed to the original sample in previous waves. From Wave 12, the original sample and refreshment sample respondents receive identical question programs. The German Family Panel is a multi-subject study focusing on aspects of partnership and family dynamics. 1.) Partnership formation and development 2.) Transition to first and consecutive births 3.) Intergenerational relationships 4.) Parenting and child development In addition, the survey also touches on various issues from other life domains and demography. Most of the instruments are utilized either annually in each survey wave (core modules) or are rotated every two or every three years (extended modules). In the main survey, the anchor persons report - among other things - retrospectively on changes related to their partnerships, children, residences, and educational and occupational career since the last wave (Event History Calendar). The questionnaires for partners, parents, and children are similar to the main survey in terms of topics but differ in length and content. The more detailed variable lists comprise all variables with names and labels plus notes on changes between the waves. These lists are available online. Topics: 1.) Partnership formation and development: Expectations concerning partnership (positive, negative); Partnership biography since age 14 (sex and age of partners, partnership, cohabitation and marriage episodes by month); Getting to know each other (current partner); Institutionalization of partnership (plans, ambivalence, stages); Sexuality (first times, sexual orientation, frequency of sexual intercourse, sexual competence and communication, satisfaction with sex life); Activities with partner (leisure); Cohabitation (dwelling, distance between places of residence); Division of household chores (several activities, fairness); Finances in partnership (bank accounts, living expenses); Quality of partnership (dyadic coping, NRI, MITA, feelings of competence, future orientation, readiness to make sacrifices, reciprocity orientation, problems in partnership, hostile attributions, areas of conflicts, conflict styles and behavior, tolerance of conflicts, satisfaction with relationship, subjective instability of partnership); Module for singles (satisfaction with situation as single, interest in partnership, desire for partnership, characteristics of the partner market, subjective chances, broad and in-depth exploration); Separation module (course of separation, problems in partnership, effects on children, emotional distress after separation, exposure with separation, custody and alimony arrangements). 2.) Transition to first and consecutive births: Expectations concerning life with children (value of children); Pregnancy (existence of pregnancy, tried to sire a child/get pregnant, infertility, procreation/measures inducing pregnancy, abortion/miscarriage, hypothetical social support in case of pregnancy); Contraception (use, methods, consistency of use); Social influences on family planning (by friends and parents); Fertility plans (ideal and realistic number of children, intention to become parent, timing of parenthood, agreement with partner, willingness to cut back for children, effects of being parent, parenthood decision making, reasons against children); Preconditions for parenthood (assessment of actual and target state); Societal context (assessment, influences of family policy). 3.) Intergenerational relationships: Expectations concerning the relationship to parents (value of parents); Familial norms; Family and partnership related values; Quality of parent-child-relationship (NRI); Dimensions of intergenerational relationships (frequency of contact, emotional closeness, travel-time distance); Given and received support (emotional, material, instrumental); Nursing (need for care parents, care provider); Activities parents with children (leisure); Leaving parents’ home (age). 4.) Parenting and child development: Child rearing goals; Parenting styles; Parenting role (parental self-efficacy, autonomy, anxious overprotection, social support, readiness to make sacrifices, hostile attributions); Co-parenting (problems, problem solving, appreciation/support); Perception of parental parenting style (negative communication, MITA); Assessment of own childhood; Child care (responsible persons, satisfaction with child care situation); Behavior of children (SDQ); Health of children (specific and in general); Newborn and infant module (delivery, checkups, breastfeeding, temperament, sleep at night, crying behavior, unspecific strain). Other life domains: Personality (“Big Five”); Well-being (loneliness, self-worth, depressiveness, etc.); Health (general status, handicap, sleep at night, body height and weight); Importance of life domains (occupation, family, etc.); Satisfaction (with life, school/job, leisure activities, friends, family, financial situation); Network integration (number of friends, network generator); Leisure (several activities); Religiosity (religious denomination, frequency of church visits); work-life-balance, critical life events in social environment. Demography: Sex; Age; Marital status; Country of birth and nationality; Number of siblings and relatives; Education (education career, educational attainment); Employment biography (employment episodes, occupation, occupational status); Employment situation (work schedule arrangement, temporary employment contract, multiple jobs, conditions at workplace, commuting, maternity/paternity leave, military/civilian service); Income and benefits (current gross and net income per month, net household income, drawing of social benefits, alimony payment, income on investments, economic deprivation); Residential biography since age 18 (first move out of parents‘ home, places of residence in federal state and country, first and second place of residence, moves, type of current household, ownership of dwelling, total living space, number of rooms, monthly expenditures for dwelling, frequency of overnight stays); Household grid (number of further persons in the household and their sex, age, kind of relationship); Information about current partner (date of birth, country of birth and nationality, education, occupation, job position, children from earlier relationships, place of residence); Information about children (number, sex, date of birth, status, cohabitation, contact, second parent, health status, child care); Information about biological parents and stepparents (date of birth, whether still alive and - if applicable - date of death, country of birth and nationality, highest level of education and vocational training, marital status, relationship status, cohabitation, old and new partnership). Starting with Wave 7, the step-up Cohort was asked about their social media use (activities with social media, frequency of Internet use, reasons for use, negative online experiences, feelings towards others after online contact, Internet dependency, fear if missing out, group norms) and about their risk-taking behavior (and delinquency). The parents of the anchor persons are only interviewed up to wave 8. Due to considerably low response rates in the parents survey, this was redesigned as one-time grandparent survey in wave 8. Children of the anchor persons taking part in the child survey will be admitted to the panel as new anchor persons (step-ups) after their 16th birthday. Starting with wave 8, all respondents under 18 were asked about: emotional symptoms (emotion); conduct problems; prosocial behavior; hyperactivity; peer problems. Starting with Wave 9, a new PAPI instrument on Parenting Adolescents and Young Adults (PAYA) was introduced to survey anchors and their partners regarding their relationship with adolescent and young adult offspring. Until Wave 9, the assessment of parent-child relationships and parenting was restricted to children up to age 15. Furthermore, PAYA includes new indicators on parental autonomy support and conversely - helicopter parenting to address this recently debated issue. Within this instrument, quality of parent-child relations are measured (supplementing the already existing child-parent perspective from the Child Interview) and questions concerning parenting of adolescent children (e.g., helicopter parenting). Starting with wave 11, we introduced an additional parenting survey for partners to assess dyadic information on children under the age of 6 years as addressed by the module for babies and toddlers and the module for 3 to 5 year old children in the anchor survey. Questions include child behavior, temperament, night sleep, hostile attributions and parenting behavior.
Temporal Coverage
  • 2008-09 / 2009-05
    1st Wave
  • 2009-10 / 2010-04
    2nd Wave (Start DemoDiff sample of items from wave 1 of the pairfam survey)
  • 2010-10 / 2011-04
    3rd Wave
  • 2011-10 / 2012-05
    4th Wave
  • 2012-10 / 2013-05
    5th Wave
  • 2013-10 / 2014-05
    6th Wave
  • 2014-10 / 2015-05
    7th Wave
  • 2015-10 / 2016-05
    8th Wave
  • 2016-10 / 2017-05
    9th Wave
  • 2017-10 / 2018-05
    10th Wave
  • 2018-10 / 2019-05
    11th Wave
Geographic Coverage
  • Germany (DE)
Sampled Universe
All German-speaking persons (irrespective of nationality) living in private households in Germany born within one of the following time periods Anchor persons in wave 1: • born between 01.01.1991 and 31.12.1993 (Cohort 1) • born between 01.01.1981 and 31.12.1983 (Cohort 2) • born between 01.01.1971 and 31.12.1973 (Cohort 3) Anchor refreshment sample in wave 11: • born between 01.01.2001 and 31.12.2003 (Cohort 4) • born between 01.01.1991 and 31.12.1993 (Cohort 1) • born between 01.01.1981 and 31.12.1983 (Cohort 2) The population of the DemoDiff sample includes all German-speaking individuals living in private households in any of the five new federal states (Neue Bundesländer), including East Berlin, born in the following cohorts: • born between 01.01.1981 and 31.12.1983 (Cohort 2) • born between 01.01.1971 and 31.12.1973 (Cohort 3)
Probability: Multistage; Sampling Procedure Comment: The German Family Panel pairfam is a panel survey of anchor persons with an implemented multi-actor design. The anchor´s partner and, from the second wave onwards, also the anchor´s (step-)parents and children of the age of 8 to 15 living in the household are additionally included in the survey in order to get a comprehensive picture of respondents’ family life. Anchor Persons: The initial sample was drawn using a two-stage sampling procedure; the aim was to represent the three cohorts with equal shares of the total sample: • first stage: municipalities of the Federal Republic of Germany were sampled (with a sampling probability proportional to the size of the target population in each municipality, proportionally distributed between East and West Germany); • second stage: persons of the target population who had their main residence in the selected municipalities were sampled (systematic random sampling on the asis of local population registers). Anchor persons are interviewed annually, using a non-monotonic design (respondents who dropped out in the last wave are re-contacted in the subsequent wave). Partners: inclusion of the current partner of the anchor person in the survey if consent of the anchor person is given (irrespective of sex, cohabitation or relationship status); in case of separation between the waves, ex-partners are not contacted again. Parents: inclusion of up to three (step-)parents in the survey if they are living in Germany and if consent of the anchor person is given; biological parents have the highest priority, followed by the mother’s new partner and the father’s new partner (irrespective of cohabitation or relationship status of the parents); annually repeated interviews (even in case of changes concerning stepparents). Children: inclusion of the youngest child living in the anchor household aged between 8 and 15 in the second survey wave plus all other children entering this age interval from the third wave onwards if consent of the anchor person and possibly of the partner is given (biological or social children, including adoptive and foster children); annually repeated interviews until the age of 15, then inclusion in the main panel of anchor persons. Details on sampling procedures and follow-up strategies are explained in the method reports (available in German language only) and in the Technical Paper No. 1 (see documentation).
Time Dimension
  • Longitudinal: Panel
Collection Mode
  • Anchor Persons: Face-to-face interview with standardized questionnaire (CAPI and CASI for sensitive topics); incentive of 10€ cash per realized interview in waves 1 to 8. Since 9th wave 15€ cash incentive. Partner: Paper-and-pencil interview with standardized questionnaire (Drop-Off); incentive of 5€ lottery ticket per completed questionnaire in waves 1 to 6. Since 7th wave 5€ cash incentive. Parenting: Paper-and-pencil interview with standardized questionnaire (Drop-Off), additional information provided by anchor persons and partners about their surveyed children Parents: Mail survey with standardized questionnaire; incentive of 5€ lottery ticket per completed questionnaire in waves 1 to 6. Since 7th wave 5€ cash incentive. Grant parents interviewed in wave 8, no interviews at all since wave 9 Children: Face-to-face interview with standardized questionnaire (CAPI); incentive of 5€ cash per realized interview
The DemoDiff survey, carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, utilizes a largely identical set of instruments and supplements the pairfam data with an additional sample of eastern German anchor persons of the two birth cohorts 1971 to 1973 and 1981 to 1983 plus their partners (oversample). The current data from the DemoDiff survey are included in the scientific use file of the German Family Panel pairfam. Analyses of the influence of context factors are facilitated by additional geographically referenced data and by the concatenation of pairfam micro-data with numerous local and regional indicators (“microm data”). Due to security considerations, these data are accessible on secure workstations in Bremen, Cologne, Jena, and Munich only. The user support office of the pairfam research data center provides information about the project and helpdesk services concerning the use of pairfam data (Email: The pairfam research data center holds international meetings, user conferences and data workshops on a regular basis. All events are announced in the pairfam newsletter and on the website. A complete list of all known publications related to the German Family Panel including students’ theses is available on the pairfam website.
C - Data and documents are only released for academic research and teaching after the data depositor’s written authorization. For this purpose the Data Archive obtains a written permission with specification of the user and the analysis intention.
All metadata from GESIS DBK are available free of restriction under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. However, GESIS requests that you actively acknowledge and give attribution to all metadata sources, such as the data providers and any data aggregators, including GESIS. For further information see
Alternative Identifiers
  • ZA5678 (Type: ZA-No.)
  • pairfam (Type: FDZ)
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    DOI: 10.4232/pairfam.5678.9.0.0
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    DOI: 10.4232/pairfam.5678.8.0.0
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    DOI: 10.4232/pairfam.5678.3.1.0
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    DOI: 10.4232/pairfam.5678.3.0.0
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    DOI: 10.4232/pairfam.5678.11.0.0
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  • Huinink, Johannes, Josef Brüderl, Bernhard Nauck, Sabine Walper, Laura Castiglioni und Michael Feldhaus: Panel Analysis of Intimate Relationships and Family Dynamics (pairfam): Conceptual framework and design. In: Zeitschrift für Familienforschung 23, 2011, S. 77-101
  • Brüderl, Josef; Castiglioni, Laura; Schumann, Nina (Hrsg.): Partnerschaft, Fertilität und intergenerationale Beziehungen - Ergebnisse der ersten Welle des Beziehungs- und Familienpanels. Würzburg: Ergon Verlag 2011

Update Metadata: 2021-04-07 | Issue Number: 16 | Registration Date: 2018-07-23