Delaying Marital Disruption and Children’s Behavior Problems

Jui-Chung Allen Li, New York University

This paper revisits the policy question whether delaying a parental divorce improves children’s emotional well-being. I argue that previous research has failed to distinguish between the effect of child’s age at parental marital disruption and the effect of delaying parental marital disruption, and to adequately control for selection on unobservables. Using panel data from Children of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, preliminary results from additive nonparametric regressions replicate previous finding that children of divorce have lower emotional well-being than children in intact families at all ages, though with a curvilinear association strongest for those whose parents divorced in their early childhood and adolescence. However, the association reduces to zero at all ages by adding child fixed effects, suggesting that the previous finding is due to selection on unobservables. Thus, I conclude that there is no causal relationship between delaying parental marital disruption and children’s emotional well-being.

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Presented in Poster Session 3