Trends in Children's Family Instability, 1995-2010

Bart Stykes, Bowling Green State University

Using data from the 1995 and 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, we examine trends in children’s family instability from birth to age 12, paying close attention to variation by racial and ethnic group. Period and cohort estimates reveal only a modest uptick in children’s experiences of family transitions during the past decade. Family instability levels are comparable for White and Hispanic children and this pattern persists over time. However, there has been a sizeable increase in family instability among Black children that is largely driven by growth in the share of children born to single mothers who eventually form partnerships. Indeed, children born to single mothers in the more recent cohort experience more family transitions, on average, than their counterparts from the earlier cohort. In contrast, the levels of instability characterizing children born into to cohabiting mothers remain unchanged.

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Presented in Session 33: Family Transitions across the Life Course