Family Structure

Family, Economic, and Geographic Characteristics of Black Families with Children
Black Americans’ social standing, including family structure, in the United States has been shaped by a long history of racism in laws, policies, and practices that has built racist institutions and created and exacerbated inequality. This inequality is built into the infrastructure of our country and has formed the foundation for structural racism—a system that privileges White people and results in intentional disadvantage for Black Americans. These inequalities negatively impact the lives of Black people in a number of ways (2021).

Association of Youth Age at Exposure to Household Dysfunction
Social scientists are currently advocating the importance of the association of positive and negative experiences in early childhood with biological, behavioral, and social outcomes in part because of heightened brain sensitivity from conception to age 3 years. In response, policy makers, child educators, and others have focused on the first years of childhood for securing cognitive functioning and physical and mental health in the adult population.4,5 However, insights from neuroscience provide a second perspective that adolescence is also a sensitive period in brain development, implying that experiences during this period are similarly crucial for later outcomes (2021).

Impacts of Family Structure on Puberty Onset in Girls
Research published in BMC Pediatrics suggests that girls who do not live with both parents from birth to age two may be at higher risk of starting puberty at a younger age than girls living with both parents. According to the authors, stress in early life may influence puberty onset and could potentially be mitigated by interventions aiming to improve child wellbeing (2020).

Disentangling the Effects of Family Structure on Boys and Girls
Here are some of the well-known risks for children growing up with a single mother compared to their peers in married-couple families: lower school achievement, more discipline problems and school suspension, less high school graduation, lower college attendance and graduation, more crime and incarceration (especially for boys), less success in the labor market, and more likely to become single parents themselves (especially for girls), thereby starting the cycle all over again for the next generation (2020).

Select Colleges and Intact Families
Students from married birth parent families are more than twice as likely to graduate from a selective college as those from all other family types even after controlling for parent education, family income, and student race and ethnicity. (2020)

The Disparate Effects of Family Structure
In this article, Melanie Wasserman reviews the latest evidence about the causal link between family structure and children’s economic and social outcomes. Going beyond the question of whether family structure affects child outcomes—a topic that’s already been covered at length—she examines how family structure differentially affects children. One important finding from recent studies is that growing up outside a family with two biological, married parents yields especially negative consequences for boys as compared to girls, including poorer educational outcomes and higher rates of criminal involvement. (2020)

Family Instability Influences Adolescents’ Aggression
A new brief examines the link between family instability during childhood and social competence and aggression in adolescence. Adolescents who had less family stability during childhood were more aggressive than their peers with stable families, regardless of family income level. (2019)

Why Paternal Involvement Matters
One out of every three kids in America lives in a home in which their biological father is not present. Many studies focus on how a mother’s involvement in her child’s life affects their brain development, but how does a dad’s involvement affect a child? (2019)

Childhood Family Structure and Wealth Accumulation
Childhood family structure is a commonly studied determinant of child and adult outcomes. Wealth is affected by a wide variety of factors, including human capital formation, family dynamics, and intergenerational transfers. Based on data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, individuals who continuously lived with both biological parents during childhood had more wealth as adults than those who did not. This observation held for all of the different childhood family structures. Additional tests revealed that differences in wealth among the different family structures were not statistically significant. (2019)

Adolescent Connectedness and Adult Health Outcomes
According to a new CDC study published in in Pediatrics, youth who feel connected at home and at school were less likely to experience health risk behaviors related to mental health, violence, sexual health, and substance use in adulthood. These findings suggest that increasing both school and family connectedness during adolescence through school, family, and community-based approaches can potentially have a powerful impact on health outcomes later in life. (2019)

Role of Social Networks among Low-Income Fathers
This brief, from the Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation , explores fathers’ social support networks. A few of the findings indicate that fathers typically had small social networks and some fathers had no supportive family or friends. Some used their social networks for four main types of support: emotional, financial, in-kind, and housing; and reported using supports from organizations such as religious organizations, community service agencies, and community based-organizations. (2017)

Family Structure and Family Formation among Low-Income Hispanics in the U.S.
In particular, family structure among Hispanics—the largest and one of the fastest growing racial/ethnic minority groups in the U.S.—is less understood than that of some other groups. This is a critical knowledge gap, as Hispanics currently make up 17 percent of the U.S. population and 25 percent of children under age 18. (2017)