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Family Structure

Predicting Participation in Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Programs

This research-to-practice brief describes findings from the STR about what workshopand participant-level factors might predict greater participation in HMRF primary workshops. Scenarios and technical findings products share information with HMRF practitioners, local evaluators, and others about the predictive methods used, key findings, potential uses of the results, and next steps, including considerations for ensuring that results are used equitably to help all HMRF program participants (2023).

Household Instability in Childhood and the Risk of Depression

New research by Felicia Hardy and colleagues published in June in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience explains how the allostasis created by household instability before age 5 increases the risk of depression by age 21. What makes this new work so different from social science research linking childhood instability with adverse outcomes is that Hardy’s team was able to describe how household instability changes children’s brains. That is, they were able to describe the allostasis that is created in children’s brains as an adaptation to household instability, and how that allostasis is more vulnerable to depression in adulthood than brain development associated with childhood stability (2023).

How Moms and Dads View Each Other As Co-Parents Affects Kids

A study recently published in the journal Child Development reveals that how mothers and fathers see each other as co-parents of their children plays a key role in how well-adjusted their kids become. Children have the best outcomes when both parents see their co-parenting relationship as highly positive and worst when both parents view their relationship as poor. “Children are almost as well-adjusted when the relationship quality is moderate and mothers are less positive about co-parenting relative to fathers,” lead author Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan said. Child outcomes suffer, though, when it is fathers who were less positive about co-parenting (2023).

Strong Adolescent-Parent Relationships Lead to Better Long-term Health Outcomes in Young Adults
Researchers from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) have found that adolescents who report strong relationships with their parents have better long-term health outcomes. Study findings, published today in JAMA Network Open, suggest that investments in improving parent–adolescent relationships could help improve general health, mental health and sexual health, while also reducing substance use in young adulthood (2023).

Parenting Practices in Teen Years Set the Stage for Closeness, Warmth Later On
This study’s findings were published recently in Developmental Psychology. The research team surveyed 1,631 participants in a long-term research study of families in rural and semi-rural Pennsylvania and Iowa who completed surveys between sixth and 12th grades and again at age 22. The research showed that parenting can change a lot during the teenage years: parents often express less warmth and affection, spend less time with their teens, and become more harsh in their discipline. Parents that were able to maintain positive parenting and involvement laid the foundation for a close relationship when their teens became adults (2022).

Mental Health and the Single Parent
Single-parent families are increasingly common in the United States – some start that way, while others come about after divorce, death, or incarceration. Single parents often experience being at their limit regarding commitments and responsibilities. Identifying early warning signs of feeling overwhelmed – feeling resentful, irritable, or quick to lose the cool is usually a good indicator. Even if it feels impossible, allowing time to be alone and to relax will help single parents more able to your stress and energy levels.

Number of Children Living with Two Parents Has Dropped Since 1968
The number of children living with two parents has dropped since 1968, while the percentage living with their mother only has doubled. In 1968, 85% of children under 18 lived with two parents (regardless of marital status); by 2020, 70% did, according to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS). Monitoring these trends is important because children’s living arrangements can have implications for children’s outcomes, such as academic achievements, internalizing problems (e.g., depression and anxiety), and externalizing problems (e.g., anger and aggression) (2021).

The Two Extremes of Fatherhood
When it comes to living with kids, there are two extremes of fatherhood — “solo” dads who appear to raise their children by themselves and “absent” dads who appear to have little or nothing to do with parenting. These two types of fathers may seem like polar opposites. Yet, they have many characteristics in common. For example, they’re both more likely to have never married and to be living with their own parents (2019).

Re-Thinking Stepfather’s Contributions
Using data from a contemporary cohort of 5000 children born in nonmarital births, researchers from Princeton University explore the relationships between stepfathers’ closeness and active engagement and youth’s internalizing and externalizing behaviors and school connectedness. The research team found that the emotional tenor of the relationship and level of active engagement between youth and their stepfathers are associated with reduced internalizing behaviors and higher school connectedness. Stepfathers’ roles seem to have evolved in ways that are more beneficial to their adolescent stepchildren than was previously the case (2021).

Family, Economic, and Geographic Characteristics of Black Families with Children
Black Americans’ social standing, including family structure, in the United States has been shaped by a long history of racism in laws, policies, and practices that has built racist institutions and created and exacerbated inequality. This inequality is built into the infrastructure of our country and has formed the foundation for structural racism—a system that privileges White people and results in intentional disadvantage for Black Americans. These inequalities negatively impact the lives of Black people in a number of ways (2021).

Association of Youth Age at Exposure to Household Dysfunction
Social scientists are currently advocating the importance of the association of positive and negative experiences in early childhood with biological, behavioral, and social outcomes in part because of heightened brain sensitivity from conception to age 3 years. In response, policy makers, child educators, and others have focused on the first years of childhood for securing cognitive functioning and physical and mental health in the adult population.4,5 However, insights from neuroscience provide a second perspective that adolescence is also a sensitive period in brain development, implying that experiences during this period are similarly crucial for later outcomes (2021).

Impacts of Family Structure on Puberty Onset in Girls
Research published in BMC Pediatrics suggests that girls who do not live with both parents from birth to age two may be at higher risk of starting puberty at a younger age than girls living with both parents. According to the authors, stress in early life may influence puberty onset and could potentially be mitigated by interventions aiming to improve child wellbeing (2020).

Disentangling the Effects of Family Structure on Boys and Girls
Here are some of the well-known risks for children growing up with a single mother compared to their peers in married-couple families: lower school achievement, more discipline problems and school suspension, less high school graduation, lower college attendance and graduation, more crime and incarceration (especially for boys), less success in the labor market, and more likely to become single parents themselves (especially for girls), thereby starting the cycle all over again for the next generation (2020).

Select Colleges and Intact Families
Students from married birth parent families are more than twice as likely to graduate from a selective college as those from all other family types even after controlling for parent education, family income, and student race and ethnicity. (2020)

The Disparate Effects of Family Structure
In this article, Melanie Wasserman reviews the latest evidence about the causal link between family structure and children’s economic and social outcomes. Going beyond the question of whether family structure affects child outcomes—a topic that’s already been covered at length—she examines how family structure differentially affects children. One important finding from recent studies is that growing up outside a family with two biological, married parents yields especially negative consequences for boys as compared to girls, including poorer educational outcomes and higher rates of criminal involvement. (2020)

Family Instability Influences Adolescents’ Aggression
A new brief examines the link between family instability during childhood and social competence and aggression in adolescence. Adolescents who had less family stability during childhood were more aggressive than their peers with stable families, regardless of family income level. (2019)

Why Paternal Involvement Matters
One out of every three kids in America lives in a home in which their biological father is not present. Many studies focus on how a mother’s involvement in her child’s life affects their brain development, but how does a dad’s involvement affect a child? (2019)

Childhood Family Structure and Wealth Accumulation
Childhood family structure is a commonly studied determinant of child and adult outcomes. Wealth is affected by a wide variety of factors, including human capital formation, family dynamics, and intergenerational transfers. Based on data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, individuals who continuously lived with both biological parents during childhood had more wealth as adults than those who did not. This observation held for all of the different childhood family structures. Additional tests revealed that differences in wealth among the different family structures were not statistically significant. (2019)

Adolescent Connectedness and Adult Health Outcomes
According to a new CDC study published in in Pediatrics, youth who feel connected at home and at school were less likely to experience health risk behaviors related to mental health, violence, sexual health, and substance use in adulthood. These findings suggest that increasing both school and family connectedness during adolescence through school, family, and community-based approaches can potentially have a powerful impact on health outcomes later in life. (2019)