Family Structure and Child Health Outcomes in Fragile Families

Sharon Bzostek, Princeton University

Dramatic changes in family demography in the United States have led to increasing numbers of children living in “non-traditional” households. A large body of literature documents the association between living in a non-traditional family structure/familial instability and children’s cognitive and behavioral outcomes. In contrast, relatively little research has focused on the relationship between family structure and instability and children’s physical health outcomes, despite the fact that there is good theoretical reason to expect that family structure and instability might be associated with children’s physical health. The current study uses longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to assess whether family structure and familial instability are associated with a variety of children’s physical health outcomes. The paper pays particular attention to potential mediating mechanisms, and utilizes fixed effects models to address problems of selection bias.

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Presented in Session 92: Family Context and Health Outcomes for Parents and Children