Influences of Family Structure, Conflict, and Change on Transitions to Adulthood

Kelly Musick, University of Southern California
Larry Bumpass, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Ann Meier, University of Minnesota

The past half-century has seen extensive changes in both “typical” family structures and the transition experiences of youth en route to adulthood. This paper examines these related changes. We investigate the influence of family structure and functioning during childhood on transitions to adulthood, including academic success and risk-taking behaviors. Our analysis relies on data from three waves of the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH). It takes advantage of rich, prospective measures of parent relationships and change in relationships over time. We examine differences in child outcomes by family structure, but also acknowledge the importance of variation in intact families for child wellbeing, distinguishing between high and low conflict marriages. Preliminary findings suggest that conflict in intact families is related to young adult transitions in ways similar to single- and step-parent families. Moreover, its association appears (for some outcomes) to be independent of subsequent marital disruption.

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Presented in Session 10: Family Instability and Child Well-Being