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The Bigger the Children, the Bigger the Worries: Are Preschoolers and Adolescents Affected Differently by Family Instability with Regard to Non-cognitive Skills?

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  • Frauke H. Peter
  • C. Katharina Spiess

Abstract

Substantial research on the relationship between family structures and child outcomes represents a considerable part of the literature. However, family structure provides a rather static view of the relationship of children's living arrangements and their well-being, revealing hardly anything about the stability of a family for a longer period. This paper focuses on the impact of family instability on children. In light of human capital accumulation, we hypothesize that a stable family (either a two parent or a single parent family) might be beneficial for child outcomes, in particular for non-cognitive skills. We use skills, such as socio-emotional behavior or locus of control, as our primary measure of child outcomes. The paper focuses on the potential impact of family instability occurring at different childhood stages on non-cognitive skills of preschoolers (aged five to six) and of adolescents (aged seventeen). Our analysis is based on data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP). Family instability is defined by yearly observed maternal partnership variations. Our results suggest that differences in family stability account for some of the gradient in social-behavioral difficulties for preschool children. By using sibling differences for our adolescents' sample, we find that multiple partnership transitions experienced early in life are negatively correlated with non-cognitive skills in adolescence, e.g., such adolescents are less likely to be active or self-determined in life.

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File URL: http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.369755.de/diw_sp0367.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) in its series SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research with number 367.

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Length: 36 p.
Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp367

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Keywords: Child development; family dynamics; locus of control; non-cognitive skills;

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References

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  1. Del Bono, Emilia & Ermisch, John & Francesconi, Marco, 2008. "Intrafamily Resource Allocations: A Dynamic Model of Birth Weight," IZA Discussion Papers 3704, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Björklund, Anders & Sundström, Marianne, 2004. "Parental Separation and Children's Educational Attainment: A Siblings Analysis on Swedish Register Data," Working Paper Series 4/2004, Swedish Institute for Social Research.
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Cited by:
  1. Michael Weinhardt & Jürgen Schupp, 2011. "Multi-Itemskalen im SOEP Jugendfragebogen," Data Documentation 60, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.

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