The families into which children are born and in which they spend the early part of childhood have changed dramatically over the past several decades. Changes in marriage/remarriage, divorce, cohabitation, and nonmarital childbearing have all resulted in increasingly complex family structures for children, marked by greater diversity in how families are formed, as well as more frequent transitions into and out of different family types. This complexity has important implications for children’s well-being.
New analyses by Child Trends indicate that a child’s likelihood of living with a single parent or cohabiting parents, in a stepfamily, or with extended family members early in life varies depending on mother’s level of education and her relationship status at birth (married, cohabiting, or not living with a partner).
Key findings include:
“Together, these trends highlight the increasing complexity of today’s families,” says Mindy Scott, Ph.D., one of the study’s authors. “They also point to significant, and increasing, differences in complexity based on mother’s level of education.”
“Given this increasing complexity, it is important for us to identify ways to strengthen family relationships and improve mothers’ and fathers’ positive involvement with children across all types of family structures in order to improve child well-being.”
Child Trends’ analyses are based on:
Further results from these analyses will be published in a forthcoming research brief, available on the Child Trends website, www.childtrends.org.
Child Trends is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center that studies children at all stages of development, across all major domains, and in the important contexts of their lives. Our mission is to improve outcomes for children by providing research, data, and analysis to the people and institutions whose decisions and actions affect children.