Child Indicators Research

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 389–411 | Cite as

Who Matters for Children’s Early Development? Race/Ethnicity and Extended Household Structures in the United States

  • Stefanie Mollborn
  • Paula Fomby
  • Jeff A. Dennis


Taking advantage of recent data that permit an assessment of the importance of extended household members in operationalizing the relationship between family structure and children’s early development, this study incorporated coresident grandparents, other kin, and nonkin to investigate the associations between extended household structure and U.S. children’s cognitive and behavioral outcomes at age 2. Analyses assessed whether these relationships differed for Latino, African American, and White children and tested four potential explanations for such differences. Nationally representative data came from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort of 2001 (N ≈ 8,450). Extended household structures were much more prevalent in households of young African American and Latino children than among Whites. Nuclear households were beneficial for White children, but living with a grandparent was associated with the highest cognitive scores for African American children. Nuclear, vertically extended, and laterally extended households had similar associations with Latino children’s cognitive and behavior scores. Results suggest that expanded indicators of household structure that include grandparents, other kin, and nonkin are useful for understanding children’s early development.


Family structure Extended households Grandparents Kin support Early childhood 



This research is based on work supported by a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Public Health Service (#1 APRPA006015-01-00). The authors thank Richard Jessor, Peter Lovegrove, and Christie Sennott for their helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefanie Mollborn
    • 1
  • Paula Fomby
    • 2
  • Jeff A. Dennis
    • 3
  1. 1.Sociology and Institute of Behavioral ScienceUniversity of Colorado at BoulderBoulderUSA
  2. 2.University of Colorado DenverDenverUSA
  3. 3.University of Texas of the Permian BasinOdessaUSA

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