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Partnership Instability and Child Well-being

  • Cynthia Osborne

    (University of Texas, Austin)

  • Sara McLanahan

    (Princeton University)

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    We use data from three waves of the Fragile Families Study (N = 2,111) to examine the prevalence and effects of mothers’ partnership changes between birth and age 3 on children’s behavior. We find that children born to unmarried and minority parents experience significantly more partnership changes than children born to parents who are married or White. Each transition is associated with a modest increase in behavioral problems, but a significant number of children experience three or more transitions. The effects of instability do not depend on the mothers’ relationship status or race/ethnicity with one exception: instability has a stronger effect on aggression among Hispanic children. The association between instability and behavior is mediated by maternal stress and lower quality mothering.

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    File URL: http://crcw.princeton.edu/workingpapers/WP04-16-FF-Osborne.pdf
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    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 946.

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    Date of creation: Mar 2007
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:pri:crcwel:wp04-16-ff-osborne
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    Web page: http://crcw.princeton.edu/

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    1. Marcia Carlson & Sara Mclanahan & Paula England, 2004. "Union formation in fragile families," Demography, Springer, vol. 41(2), pages 237-261, May.
    2. Anne Case & I-Fen Lin & Sara McLanahan, 1999. "How Hungry is the Selfish Gene?," NBER Working Papers 7401, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Donna Ginther & Robert Pollak, 2004. "Family structure and children’s educational outcomes: Blended families, stylized facts, and descriptive regressions," Demography, Springer, vol. 41(4), pages 671-696, November.
    4. Nancy Reichman & Hope Corman & Kelly Noonan, 2004. "Effects of child health on parents’ relationship status," Demography, Springer, vol. 41(3), pages 569-584, August.
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