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Child Wellbeing in Two-Parent Families: How Do Characteristics and Relationships Matter?

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  • Lawrence M. Berger

    (University of Wisconsin, Madison)

  • Sara S. McLanahan

    (Princeton University)

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    Abstract

    We use data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to examine the role of individual and family characteristics, as well as mother-father and parent-child relationships, with regard to differences in wellbeing for children living with their biological mother and either their biological father or a social father. We find that accounting for these factors produces a large decrease in the association between two-parent family type and cognitive skills, but does little to explain the association between family type and externalizing behavior problems, given suppressor effects of several of the father characteristics and relationship measures. Furthermore, results from Blinder-Oaxaca decompositions suggest that differences in cognitive skills can largely be explained by differences in the characteristics and behaviors of the individuals comprising biological- and social-father families, whereas differences in externalizing behavior problems predominantly reflect differences in returns to (effects of) these characteristics and behaviors for children in the two family types.

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    File URL: http://crcw.princeton.edu/workingpapers/WP11-13-FF.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing. in its series Working Papers with number 1322.

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    Date of creation: Jun 2011
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    Handle: RePEc:pri:crcwel:wp11-13-ff

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    Related research

    Keywords: parents; children; relationships; welfare; wellbeing; martial status;

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    References

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    1. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
    2. Elder, Todd E. & Goddeeris, John H. & Haider, Steven J., 2009. "Unexplained Gaps and Oaxaca-Blinder Decompositions," IZA Discussion Papers 4159, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Mathia Sinning & Markus Hahn & Thomas K. Bauer, 2008. "The Blinder–Oaxaca decomposition for nonlinear regression models," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 8(4), pages 480-492, December.
    4. Susan Brown, 2006. "Family structure transitions and adolescent well-being," Demography, Springer, vol. 43(3), pages 447-461, August.
    5. Reichman, Nancy E. & Teitler, Julien O. & Garfinkel, Irwin & McLanahan, Sara S., 2001. "Fragile Families: sample and design," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(4-5), pages 303-326.
    6. Alan S. Blinder, 1973. "Wage Discrimination: Reduced Form and Structural Estimates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(4), pages 436-455.
    7. Cynthia Osborne & Sara McLanahan, 2007. "Partnership Instability and Child Well-being," Working Papers 946, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..
    8. David Maume, 2011. "Reconsidering the Temporal Increase in Fathers’ Time with Children," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 32(3), pages 411-423, September.
    9. Sandra Hofferth, 2006. "Residential father family type and child well-being: Investment versus selection," Demography, Springer, vol. 43(1), pages 53-77, February.
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