Union formation in fragile families

Abstract

In this article, we use data from a new longitudinal survey—the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study—to examine union formation among unmarried parents who have just had a child together. We used multinomial logistic regression to estimate the effects of economic, cultural/interpersonal, and other factors on whether (relative to having no romantic relationship) parents are romantically involved and living apart, cohabiting, or married to each other about one year after the child’s birth. Net of other factors (including baseline relationship status), women’s education and men’s earnings encourage marriage. Cultural and interpersonal factors also have strong effects: women’s trust of men, both parents’ positive attitudes toward marriage, and both parents’ assessment of the supportiveness in their relationship encourage marriage. Supportiveness also encourages cohabitation, while fathers having a problem with alcohol or drugs and reporting higher conflict in the relationship discourage cohabitation. Fathers’ physical violence deters couples’ remaining in romantic nonresident relationships.

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Sara McLanahan worked on this article while she was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. This research was funded, in part, by a grant to Marcia Carlson from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Demographic and Behavioral Sciences Branch (Grant K01HD042776). An earlier version was presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, Washington, DC, March 2001. We are grateful to Kevin Bradway for excellent research assistance. We thank the editor, three anonymous reviewers, members of the MacArthur Network on the Family and the Economy, and many seminar and conference participants for their helpful comments. We appreciate the generous financial support of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study provided by NICHD (Grant R01HD36916) and a consortium of private foundations and governmental agencies. A list of all the funders of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study is available on the study’s web site (http://crcw.princeton.edu/ fragilefamilies/funders.asp).

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Carlson, M., Mclanahan, S. & England, P. Union formation in fragile families. Demography 41, 237–261 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1353/dem.2004.0012

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Keywords

  • Union Formation
  • Unmarried Mother
  • Nonmarital Birth
  • Fragile Family
  • Romantic Involvement