Family Structure and Early Cognitive Outcomes: The Moderating Influence of Paternal Education

Rebecca M. Ryan, University of Chicago

Children raised with married biological parents have better average cognitive outcomes than those of cohabiting biological or single parents, however, it is unknown whether these associations hold when family types have similar socioeconomic characteristics. Data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N = 2331) are used to address this question by comparing children’s age three PPVT-III scores across Stably Married, Stably Cohabiting, Unstable and Single Mother families separately at High (= some college), Medium (= high school degree/GED only), and Low (= no high school degree/GED) levels of fathers’ education. Results indicate children’s PPVT scores differ by family type only when fathers have High education levels. Differences in economic resources and investments in learning materials across family types are also larger and more strongly associated with PPVT scores in the High education group, although these differences do not fully explain variation in scores by family type.

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Presented in Session 85: Family Structure and Child Well-Being