Entry into first marriage or cohabitation: Effects of childhood family structure in a changing world
AuthorWilhelm, Brenda Kay
Shockey, James W.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractI extend the literature on the long-term effects of growing up in a single parent family by investigating patterns of entry into co-residential relationships. I address three primary questions: (1) what are the effects of family structure growing up, particularly time spent with a single parent, on entry into first marriage or cohabitation; (2) how do these effects vary depending on the type of disruption experienced, the age of the child when the disruption occurs, the number of years spent in a single parent home, the sex of the single parent and whether a parental remarriage occurred; and (3) how do the effects of growing up in a single parent home vary over cohort as the experience became one more commonly experienced? I investigate these issues within a life course perspective, along with mid-level explanations--including childhood socialization, social control, instability and change and economic. I also use cohort theories of social change to understand changes over time in the relationship between family structure growing up and relationship formation. Using data from the National Survey of Family and Households, I employ partial likelihood hazard models to address the above questions. The results indicate people who grew up in a single parent family tend to either accelerate or delay marriage and cohabitation, relative to the union-formation timing of their two-parent peers. The magnitude and direction of effects depends on specific aspects of family structure growing up--whether the single parent was a mother or a father, whether the custodial mother remarried, whether time spent with a single parent was in childhood or adulthood and whether there were multiple family structure transitions over the course of childhood and adolescence. The specific findings lend support primarily to the socialization and instability explanations, but do not support the social control explanation. As single parenthood became more common over the course of this century, the effects of family structure on marriage timing appears to be changing as well. The effects on early marriage largely remain but the effects on delayed marriage, compared to those from two-parent families, has generally declined.
Degree ProgramGraduate College