Early Family Transitions and Depressive Symptoms

Alan Booth, Pennsylvania State University
Elisa Rustenbach, Pennsylvania State University

Research suggests that early cohabitation, parenthood, and marriage have negative long-term implications. Nevertheless, in the context of their resources and opportunities, early transitions may represent positive choices for some individuals. We studied the characteristics of young adults (N = 8,172) who did, versus those who did not, make early family transitions. We assessed changes in their depressive symptoms from adolescence to young adulthood. Individuals who made early family transitions were disadvantaged in many respects, but differed little from those who did not with respect to changes in depressive symptoms. The exceptions were women and men who became involved in unstable cohabiting unions. Also, women were more likely than men to cohabit or become parents when certain risk characteristics, such as delinquent activity, were present. Overall, those who make early family transitions stay “even” with those who do not, which suggests that some young adults make positive choices from limited options.

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Presented in Session 25: Transition to Adulthood