Children's well-being and varying degrees of family instability

Sep 29, 2010

A forthcoming issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family states that children today are less likely to be born into a "traditional" family structure, defined as two biological married parents. Growing numbers of children in the United States experience multiple family living arrangements during childhood. How these transitions affect the individual child's well-being needs to be fully addressed by researchers and policymakers alike. This article fully reviews the existing research from the past ten years on these topics in an effort to guide and inform current policy debates about the role of marriage in reducing poverty and improving child outcomes.

Author Susan L. Brown observed that, "Family instability appears to negatively affect a child's well-being in the short- and long-term. But researchers are still exploring why family instability can be detrimental. Is it because of the number of transitions experience, the types of transitions, duration of time spent in diverse family environments, or some other factors?"

In her article Brown devotes special attention to new scholarship on unmarried, primarily low-income families, also the target of recent federal initiatives, such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children & Families Healthy Marriage Initiative. Brown noted that, "Child well-being is of critical importance. What is clear is that living arrangements for children are increasingly varied and complex, and family instability is typically not good for children. Children's family trajectories depend in part on their at birth, as children born to unmarried mothers tend to experience greater family instability during childhood than do children born to married parents."

Moreover, Brown asserts that children born to unmarried parents are unlikely to experience parental marriage, and parental marriage does not necessarily improve child well-being for those born to unmarried mothers. She points out that according to the research these more subtle factors may have modest but enduring consequences for the child in the long-term. Brown concluded, "Marriage is not a panacea. It is possible that the negative outcomes are not due to family structure or instability, but rather other unmeasured characteristics of the parents."

Explore further: Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

More information: "Marriage and Child Well-Being: Research and Policy Perspectives." Susan Brown. Journal of Marriage and Family; Published Online: September 29, 2010 DOI:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2010.00750.x

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Children's sex affects parents' marital status

May 23, 2006

Parents with a boy and a girl are more likely to stay married, or get married if they were unmarried when their children were born, than those with two boys or two girls according to new research from ANU economist Dr Andrew ...

When Mom Dates, Dad Stops Visiting His Kids

Aug 03, 2009

New research from the Journal of Marriage and Family shows that children born outside of marriage are less likely to be visited by their father when the mother is involved in a new romantic relationship. Many children born out ...

Recommended for you

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

12 hours ago

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

15 hours ago

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...