The Unexamined Stable Family: An Examination of Child Well-Being in Stable-Single Parent Families

Claire M. Kamp Dush, Cornell University
Rachel Dunifon, Cornell University

We find in an analysis of a merged mother-child NLSY79-C dataset that after controlling for characteristics of the child, mother, and family, children of married parents reported higher quality home environments and higher math and reading scores than children living with stable-single (never married or cohabited) mothers. Further, children born to cohabiting parents who either remain cohabiting or eventually marry were in homes with better environments than children living with stable-single mothers, but these unions did not appear to benefit children in terms of behavior or academic outcomes. We also find that unions, regardless of type, appear to benefit children who were born to single mothers in terms of their home environment and math scores. Even after these unions dissolve, children living with their newly single mother who has previously experienced a union still have higher math and reading scores than children still living with their stable-single mother.

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Presented in Session 41: Family Transition and Child Wellbeing