Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 593-618

First online:

Parental Cohabitation Experiences and Adolescent Behavioral Outcomes

  • Ronald E. BulandaAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology and Gerontology, Miami University Email author 
  • , Wendy D. ManningAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Center for Family and Demographic Research, Bowling Green State University

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Children are increasingly spending time in cohabiting parent families. Most studies that examine the implications of parental cohabitation focus on parental living arrangements at a single point in time. Using data from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), we assess whether and how parental cohabitation during childhood influences adolescent girls’ well-being. This work moves beyond prior studies by specifically considering the effects of the exposure to, transitions, and age at which children lived in cohabiting parent families. The results indicate living in cohabiting parent families is consequential for earlier sexual initiation, likelihood of having a teen birth, and high school graduation. Prior work suggests that the explanation for the negative effect of parental cohabitation is family instability. Yet, our empirical work shows that family instability does not explain the relationship between cohabitation and negative child outcomes. We conclude that the best way to understand the implications of parental cohabitation is to adopt a dynamic family experience model.


Cohabitation Family structure