Article

Demography

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 23-47

Family Structure Transitions and Changes in Maternal Resources and Well-being

  • Cynthia OsborneAffiliated withLBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin Email author 
  • , Lawrence M. BergerAffiliated withSchool of Social Work and Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • , Katherine MagnusonAffiliated withSchool of Social Work and Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin–Madison

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Abstract

This article uses data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to examine whether family instability is associated with changes in perceived social support, material hardship, maternal depression, and parenting stress among mothers of young children. In addition to accounting for the number of transitions that a mother experiences during the first five years of her child’s life, we pay close attention to the type and timing of these transitions. We find that mothers who transition to cohabitation or marriage with their child’s biological father experience declines in material hardship and that those who transition to cohabitation or marriage with another man exhibit modest declines in both material hardship and depression. Mothers who exit cohabiting or marital relationships encounter decreases in perceived social support and increases in material hardship, depression, and parenting stress. Overall, our results suggest that both the type and, to a much lesser degree, the timing of family structure transitions may influence maternal well-being.

Keywords

Family instability Marriage Cohabitation Maternal well-being Poverty