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Married and Cohabiting Parents' Relationship Stability: A Focus on Race and Ethnicity.

Publication Year: 
Personal Author: 
Osborne, Cynthia.
Manning, Wendy D.
Smock, Pamela J.
Corporate Author: 
Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing.
Technical Report
Page Count: 

Children are increasingly born into cohabitating parent families, and past research based on children born 10 to 20 years ago suggests that children born to cohabitating parents experience greater family instability than children born to married parents. This study adds to the literature by analyzing three waves of the Fragile Families Study to examine family instability among children born between 1998 and 2000. The research specifically compares parental disruption among children born to cohabitating and married parents and considers the influence of factors such as relationship quality and economic resources. Overall, the findings indicated that more than 40 percent of cohabitating parents separated before their child's third birthday, compared to 10 percent of married parents. Parental separation was more likely for Black parents than White and Hispanic parents for both types of unions. Factors that reduced the difference between cohabitating and married parents included prior cohabitating experience, additional children, educational level, income, and the quality of the parental relationship. Despite the impact of these other variables, separation is more likely for cohabitating parents than married parents and for Black parents than White parents. (Author abstract modified) 45 references, 2 figures, 4 tables.

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