Parent Union Dissolution and Subsequent Child Well-Being

Sarah E. Burgoyne, Bowling Green State University

I use the first three waves of the Fragile Families Study (N = 1,692) to explore whether the dissolution of two-biological parent cohabitation is associated with multiple domains of child well-being (aggressive behavior, withdrawn behavior, anxious/depressive behavior, and health) in the same way as two-biological parent divorce. I evaluate whether children who experience unstable two-biological-parent cohabitation fare worse than children who experience unstable two-biological-parent marriage and whether economic and parenting resources reduce the effect of parental union type on child well-being. I find that children living with unstably cohabiting parents exhibit similar levels of aggressive behavior, withdrawn behavior, and anxious/depressive behaviors as their counterparts whose parents divorced, but had higher odds having excellent health, on average. The current study suggests that the legal status of two-biological-parent union dissolution is an important predictor of child health, but not behavioral outcomes.

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Presented in Session 192: Family Structure, Parenting and Child Well-Being