Family Structure and Well-Being of Out-of-Wedlock Children: The Significance of the Biological Parents' Relationship

Shirley H. Liu, University of Miami
Frank Heiland, Florida State University

This study examines the role of the relationship between biological parents for child development using longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. We extend prior research by considering children born to unmarried parents, in an investigation of the effect of the relationship between biological parents on infant health and behavioral problems. We find evidence that children born into families of cohabiting biological parents realize better outcomes, compared to those born to mothers less involved with the child's father. The hypothesis that children born to cohabiting parents benefit from marriage of their biological parents is rejected. Children born to cohabiting or visiting parents whose relationship ends within a year after childbirth are up to 9 percent more likely to have asthma compared to children of continuously cohabiting, continuously visiting, cohabiting-at-birth or visiting-at-birth and married-subsequently biological parents. The effects are robust to controls for economic and parental resources.

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Presented in Session 87: Cohabitation