The Relative Effects of Family Instability and Mother/Partner Conflict on Children’s Externalizing Behavior

Paula Fomby, University of Colorado at Denver

We investigate whether repeated exposure to mother/partner conflict mediates the association between family structure instability and children’s externalizing behavior. We use data from the first three waves of the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study to compare the relative effects of average mother/partner conflict and multiple changes in family structure on mother-reported assessments of children’s externalizing behavior when the children are age 3. Our sample includes children whose parents were married or cohabiting at the child’s birth. Our measures of mother/partner conflict include conflict with the child’s biological father and with the mother’s new partner, if any, at each wave. Preliminary results indicate that higher exposure to mother/partner conflict mediates the association between the number of transitions a child has experienced and is independently associated with children’s behavior problems at age 3.

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Presented in Session 110: Family Structure Transitions and Child Well-Being