Maternal Education, Changing Family Circumstances, and Child Development in the U.S. And U.K.
Margot Jackson, Brown University
Kathleen E. Kiernan, University of York
Sara McLanahan, Princeton University
Around the world, children’s socioeconomic and family environments have striking implications for their healthy development. While existing research reveals important associations between SES and the family setting, and between each of these dimensions and child development, most work examines family structure and family relationships in isolation and at particular points in time, precluding a comprehensive understanding of the family environment over time and its contribution to the degree of socioeconomic inequality in child development. Using data from two nationally representative birth cohort studies that follow children from birth through middle childhood—the American Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, and the British Millennium Cohort Study—we 1) construct longitudinal measures of family income, family structure and stability, and parent-child relationships throughout early and middle childhood, that account for the duration and stability of that circumstance, and 2) examine the extent to which these trajectories explain the socioeconomic gradient in children’s well-being.