A Closer Look at Changes in Children's Living Arrangements in Low-Income Families.

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Page Count
12
Year Published
2002
Author (Individual)
Cherlin, A. J.
Fomby, P.
Resource Type
Report
Resource Format
Unbound
Low-income families in Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio were interviewed twice during a 16-month period about children's living arrangements. At the time of the first interview, 57 percent of children were living with their mother, who was neither married nor cohabitating. Twenty percent of children lived with two married, biological parents; five percent lived with two cohabitating biological parents; five percent lived with a mother who was married to a nonbiological father; nine percent lived with neither parent; and two percent lived with a mother who was cohabitating with a man who was not the child's father. Almost one-fourth of the children experienced a change in living arrangements in the 16 months after the first interview. The proportion of children living with a single mother decreased to 54 percent, while the number of children living with a mother who was cohabitating with a man who was not the child's father increased to 10 percent. A slight increase also was found in the number of children living with a mother who was married to a man who was not the child's biological father. There was no change in the proportion of children who were living with both biological parents. However, 18 percent of the married mothers separated before the second interview. Analyses of the influence of welfare time limits on changes in marital status suggest that the requirements had limited effects on a mother's decision to cohabitate or marry. Other factors, such as low unemployment and a strong economy, may have prompted the formation of more two-parent families. Policymakers expecting that welfare reform requirements will promote marriage between biological parents should consider that most mothers in the study married or began to cohabitate with a man who was not the child's father during the 16-month study period, an event that can interfere with a child's well-being as he or she adjusts to the stepparent. 3 figures and 2 tables.

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