Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Family Transitions & Children: Trends Over 25 Years for Cohabitation and Marriage

This is among the most interesting (and lucid) reports on cohabitation, marriage, and family instability for children to come along in a while. Rackin & Gibson-Davis, just out in @JMF_NCFR.

1) Transitions in home are an important predictor of child well-being. Study examines contributions to changes in number of transitions for children based on population changes in marriage and cohabitation over the past 25 years, by maternal education. Using NSFG.

2) Rackin & Gibson-Davis studied transitions (in or out of relationships) that children are exposed to (but findings are similar for transitions out, hence, instability implications).

3) There is some evidence that the number of transitions for children has finally plateaued, after going up for decades (Brown, Stykes, & Manning, 2016). But, is this because cohabitation as context for children has become more stable? Has it?

4) Findings from Rackin & Gibson-Davis: Children born to more highly educated experience far fewer transitions (1/4th as many) than children born to low and moderately educated. Moderately educated catching up to less educated.

5)  Overtime, there was an increase in number of transitions for children for both the mod and low education groups; this was driven by the huge increase in the prevalence of cohabitation vs. marriage for these groups.

6) The pace of transitions has slightly decreased, though, for cohabitation; but this is greatly offset by the increased prevalence of cohabitation. That’s a key part of what Rackin & Gibson-Davis are showing.

7) Among the highly educated, marriage has become, if anything, even more likely the context for children, and more stable over time. In fact, among the highly educated, only 7% of children born to the 2005-2010 cohort were born outside of marriages.

8) As the authors note:

“Although cohabitations among these mothers did become slightly more stable, the increased stability of cohabitation was not occurring fast enough to offset the expanded pool of children exposed to cohabitation.” (p. 13) The authors note a hope that cohabitation will eventually become more stable for children but it remains far less stable for now, and that for that to occur, “cohabitation churning would have to decrease much more rapidly than it has during the past 25 years.” (p. 14)

My take: This is an excellent study examining the intersection of SES, trends over time, and family transitions that impact children.

Cite: Rackin, H. M., & Gibson-Davis, C. M. (2018). Social class divergence in family transitions: The importance of cohabitation. Journal of Marriage and Family. Advance online publication.