Transitions in Family Structure and Children’s Wellbeing

Katherine Magnuson, University Of Wisconsin at Madison
Lawrence M. Berger, University of Wisconsin at Madison

A considerable body of research explores associations between marital dissolution, single-parent family structure, and child wellbeing. Although about 30 percent of children will spend some time in stepfamilies, the effects of maternal re-partnering on children’s wellbeing have received much less scrutiny. We use longitudinal data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and Hierarchical Linear Models (multilevel models) to estimate the effects of family structure transitions, with a specific focus on maternal re-partnering, on children’s achievement and behavior trajectories. We consider whether these effects vary by children’s ages and assess whether they are transitory or persist over time. Moreover, we focus on whether there are differences in these effects when maternal “re-partnerings” constitute cohabitations or marriages, as well as whether they differ by maternal education level. This research has implications for policies and programs regarding marriage and family formation and those that promote child wellbeing for children in complex families.

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Presented in Session 41: Family Transition and Child Wellbeing