Family Complexity and Child Well-Being: A Descriptive Portrait from the New ECLS-K Cohort

Laura L. Freeman, Rice University

Family complexity is on the rise in the U.S. as family formation patterns continue to diversify. One of the primary questions that has arisen in both political and scholarly spheres is how are children faring in these increasingly complex family structures? Secondly, if children’s outcomes differ across complex family types, are those differences due to differences in socioeconomic status, in family stability, or to family stress processes? Utilizing the newly-available 2010-2011 ECLS-K data (N = 13,330), we assess how children in traditional and complex family structures (cohabiting, single-parent, same-sex parent, and others) differ across an array of child wellbeing outcomes spanning achievement to behavior to health. Preliminary results show wide differences in wellbeing by family structure, and the full version of the paper will incorporate family instability, family stress processes, and socioeconomic status as potential explanatory mechanisms for those differences.

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 Presented in Session P4. Children and Youth/Population and Aging