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Family Structure Instability, Genetic Sensitivity, and Child Well-Being

Author(s): Mitchell, Colter; McLanahan, Sara; Hobcraft, John; Brooks-Gunn, Jeanne; Garfinkel, Irwin; et al

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Abstract: The association between family structure instability and children’s life chances is well documented, with children reared in stable, two-parent families experiencing more favorable outcomes than children in other family arrangements. This study examines father household entrances and exits, distinguishing between the entrance of a biological father and a social father and testing for interactions between family structure instability and children’s age, gender, and genetic characteristics. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study and focusing on changes in family structure by age (years 0–9), the authors show that father exits are associated with increases in children’s antisocial behavior, a strong predictor of health and well-being in adulthood. The pattern for father entrances is more complicated, with entrances for the biological father being associated with lower antisocial behavior among boys and social father entrances being associated with higher antisocial behavior. Child’s age does not moderate the association; however, genetic information in the models sharpens the findings substantially.
Publication Date: Jan-2015
Citation: Mitchell, Colter, McLanahan, Sara, Hobcraft, John, Brooks-Gunn, Jeanne, Garfinkel, Irwin, Notterman, Daniel. (2015). Family Structure Instability, Genetic Sensitivity, and Child Well-Being. American Journal of Sociology, 120 (4), 1195 - 1225. doi:10.1086/680681
DOI: doi:10.1086/680681
ISSN: 0002-9602
EISSN: 1537-5390
Pages: 1195 - 1225
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: American Journal of Sociology
Version: Final published version. Article is made available in OAR by the publisher's permission or policy.

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