The Complexity of Family Structure and Children’s School Performance: Family Composition, Stability and Parental Involvement

Jeanne L. Blackburn, Arizona State University
Jennifer E. Glick, Arizona State University

There is dramatic diversity hidden in simple typologies of family structure that may mask the extent to which children’s well-being varies by the stability and parental involvement implied by family structure itself. This paper employs longitudinal data on a large, nationally representative cohort of children to examine the effects of family structure, change in family structure, and both residential and nonresidential parental involvement on two measures of child well-being: standardized math test scores and externalizing problem behaviors. Preliminary results demonstrate that the effects of family structure on test scores are reduced when we control for economic resources but the effect of family composition persists when we examine externalizing problem behaviors. However, both outcomes are negatively affected by instability when a parent leaves the household. Parental involvement is associated with positive outcomes although preliminary results do not find significant results for non-residential parent involvement.

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Presented in Session 174: Familial Influences on Children's Educational Outcomes