Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 185–198 | Cite as

Effects of Multiple Maternal Relationship Transitions on Offspring Antisocial Behavior in Childhood and Adolescence: A Cousin-Comparison Analysis

  • Jackson A. GoodnightEmail author
  • Brian M. D’Onofrio
  • Andrew J. Cherlin
  • Robert E. Emery
  • Carol A. Van Hulle
  • Benjamin B. Lahey


Previous studies of the association between multiple parental relationship transitions (i.e., when a parent begins or terminates an intimate relationship involving cohabitation) and offspring antisocial behavior have varied in their efforts to rule out confounding influences, such as parental antisocial behavior and low income. They also have been limited in the representativeness of their samples. Thus, it remains unclear to what degree parents’ multiple relationship transitions have independent effects on children’s antisocial behavior. Analyses were conducted using data on 8,652 6–9-year-old, 6,911 10–13-year-old, and 6,495 14–17-year-old offspring of a nationally representative sample of U.S. women. Cousin-comparisons were used in combination with statistical covariates to evaluate the associations between maternal relationship transitions and offspring antisocial behavior in childhood and adolescence. Cousin-comparisons suggested that associations between maternal relationship transitions and antisocial behavior in childhood and early adolescence are largely explained by confounding factors. In contrast, the associations between maternal relationship transitions and offspring delinquency in late adolescence were robust to measured and unmeasured confounds. The present findings suggest that interventions aimed at reducing exposure to parental relationship transitions or addressing the psychosocial consequences of exposure to parental relationship transitions could reduce risk for offspring delinquency in late adolescence.


Antisocial behavior Family instability Relationship transitions Cousin-comparisons 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jackson A. Goodnight
    • 1
    Email author
  • Brian M. D’Onofrio
    • 2
  • Andrew J. Cherlin
    • 3
  • Robert E. Emery
    • 4
  • Carol A. Van Hulle
    • 5
  • Benjamin B. Lahey
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of DaytonDaytonUSA
  2. 2.Indiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  3. 3.Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  4. 4.University of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA
  5. 5.University of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  6. 6.University of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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