Family Structure Models and Nonmarital Childbearing in the Transition to Adulthood

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 9:30 AM
Room: Booth 42
Oral Presentation
Kathleen Mullan HARRIS , Sociology, University North Carolina Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Mariah CHENG , Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Nonmarital childbearing is now a common fertility event during the transition to adulthood in the America.  Current estimates indicate more than forty percent of births occur to unmarried women in the U.S., however, the image of a single, unmarried mother raising a child on her own is no longer accurate.  This paper uses national data from Add Health to document the relationship contexts (cohabitation, dating relationship, no relationship) in which nonmarital first births occur and model the environmental influences of family structure on nonmarital first births that women aged 24-32 have experienced by 2008-09.  We focus particularly on collective socialization effects of family structure models during adolescence by exploiting Add Health’s unique design to measure family structure in the multiple social contexts of adolescent life, including the family, peer group, school, and neighborhood.  We analyze both traditional (prevalence of two-parent families) and contemporary (prevalence of single-parent families) family structure models in these multiple social contexts during adolescence on subsequent nonmarital childbearing and the circumstances of nonmarital first births.  Controlling for other economic and policy-relevant determinants of nonmarital childbearing and socioeconomic confounding factors, we find robust and significant effects of family structure models in the multiple contexts of adolescents’ lives on subsequent nonmarital childbearing that are independent and additive.  When the prevalence of two-parent families is low or the prevalence of single-parent families is high, young adults face higher risks of nonmarital childbearing, and these risks are additive across the family, peer group, and school or neighborhood context.