Family Instability, Multipartner Fertility and Behavior in Middle Childhood

Paula Fomby, University of Colorado at Denver
Cynthia A. Osborne, University of Texas at Austin

Two concepts in family demography capture the dynamic and complex nature of family structure: family instability (repeated changes in children’s family structure when parents form and dissolve unions) and multipartner fertility (a parent’s experience of having children with more than one partner). Each phenomenon is associated with children’s compromised well-being. We investigate the extent to which instability and multipartner fertility co-occur and consider whether the two processes have distinct consequences for children’s behavior. We use longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N=3,377) to document and explain the association of family instability and multipartner fertility with three measures of child behavior at age 9: mother-reported and teacher-reported externalizing behavior and child-reported delinquency. Preliminary results indicate that children who experienced either event had higher behavior problem scores than children in stable, single-partner families, and children who had experienced both events had the highest average levels of behavior problems.

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Presented in Session 167: Family Instability