Family Instability and the Transition to Adulthood

Paula Fomby, University of Colorado at Denver
Stacey J. Bosick, University of Colorado at Denver

Children’s experience of repeated family structure change has a robust association with children’s compromised development across the early life course. Implicit in prior research is the expectation that observed disparities in cognition and behavior accumulate through childhood and adolescence to influence the eventual transition to adulthood in ways that perpetuate social inequalities. We test whether that expectation is empirically supported by assessing the long-term association of family structure instability with the timing and sequencing of the transition to adulthood up to age 24 using data from wave IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. We use longitudinal latent class analysis to identify distinct patterns in the transition to adulthood and to evaluate whether unstable family histories are predictive of membership in classes that indicate off-time or out-of-order transitions. Further, we evaluate the extent to which any observed association can be explained by adolescent academic achievement and risk-taking behavior.

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Presented in Session 184: Family Structure and Child Well-Being