Skip to main content

Childhood family structure and young adult behaviors


This paper examines a wide variety of forms, and full histories, of family structure to test existing theories of family influences and identify needs for new theories. The focus is on links between childhood family structure and both completed schooling and risk of a nonmarital birth. Using a 27-year span of panel (PSID) data for U.S. children, we find that: (a) change is stressful, (b) timing during childhood is relevant, (c) adults other than parents are important, and (d) two more recently studied family structures (mother-with-grandparent(s) and mother-with-stepfather) do not fit the molds of existing theories. The findings suggest that new theories should consider allocation of resources and reasons people group into family structures.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Additional information

Received: 11 September 1998/Accepted: 27 March 2000

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hill, M., Yeung, WJ. & Duncan, G. Childhood family structure and young adult behaviors. J Popul Econ 14, 271–299 (2001).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

  • JEL classification: J12
  • J13
  • J16
  • Key words: Demographic economics
  • marital dissolution
  • family structure