Family Stability and Child Well-Being during Early Childhood
Susan L. Brown, Bowling Green State University
Using data from the first two waves of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), I examine the linkages between family stability and child outcomes for very young children. Although most 9 month-olds reside in either two biological married parent (65%) or single-mother (20%) families, roughly 14% live in two biological cohabiting parent families (the remaining 1% are in stepfamilies). Two biological cohabiting parent families are less stable than two biological married parent families. Nearly 30% of children in two biological cohabiting parent families experience a change in family structure between the 9-month and 24-month interviews versus fewer than 2% of children in two biological married parent families. Transitions out of a cohabiting family do not appear to be detrimental to mental and motor development. In fact, moving from a cohabiting to a single-mother family is associated with larger gains in mental development than remaining in a stable cohabiting family.