Children’s Long-Term Family Structure Experiences and Adolescent Outcomes
Katherine Stamps Mitchell, Louisiana State University
This paper documents the family living arrangements of a cohort of youth from birth through adolescence using merged mother and child data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. In the sample of 1,870 children, 187 distinct family structure trajectories were identified. Latent class analysis yielded five distinguishable trajectories of children’s living arrangements over the course of childhood: continuously married biological parent families, long-term single mother families, married biological parents who break up, cohabiting biological parents who marry or break up, and a trajectory distinguished by the addition of a stepfather at some point during childhood. The trajectories characterized by parental divorce and growing up with a long-term single mother were generally associated with lower levels of well-being in adolescence. Family instability, measured by the number of family structure transitions children experienced, was also associated with higher levels of depression and delinquency in adolescence independently of family structure trajectories.