The Effects of Family Background on the Union Formation Process of Young Adults

Casey E Copen, University of Southern California

Using the detailed union histories of the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), this paper examines whether childhood family structure influences the formation of romantic unions among young adults. I pose four questions: 1) Do parents’ marital transitions and parents’ education have strong, predictive power in selecting young adults’ into cohabitation or marriage as a first union? 2) Taking family background into account, how do college degree attainment, college enrollment and work history influence union formation among young adults? 3) Do the effects of family background and school/work experiences on the decision to cohabit among young adults vary by gender? 4) To what extent are attitudes toward cohabitation influenced by parents’ marital history, child’s gender and age? The results of this study confirm children’s union formation decisions are strongly influenced by the union transitions of their parents.

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Presented in Session 124: Family Background, Cohabitation, and Marriage