New research investigates the fact that today’s children are less likely to grow up within a traditional family structure.
A traditional family structure refers to living with two biological, married parents.
Author Susan L. Brown explores how these transitions influence an individual child’s well-being and how the role of marriage is tied to poverty and improving child outcomes.
Growing numbers of children in the United States experience multiple family living arrangements during childhood. How these transitions affect children needs to be fully addressed by researchers and policymakers alike.
The article, as found in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family , explores how multiple family living arrangements affect a child’s maturation.
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 children 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 marriage 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 family structure 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 family instability, but rather other unmeasured characteristics of the parents.”