Fragile Families in the United Kingdom and the United States

Kathleen E. Kiernan, University of York
Sara McLanahan, Princeton University
Melanie Wright, Princeton University

In the UK and the US, increases in non-marital births have exposed growing numbers of children to non-traditional family structures. The capabilities of unmarried parents, the evolution of their relationships, and the effects of family and relationship transitions on children are largely unknown. These topics are examined using the first five years of data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study and the US Fragile Families Study. In both countries, unmarried parents have lower capabilities and less stable relationships than married parents, and single mothers tend to be more disadvantaged than cohabiting mothers. Relationship instability is associated with a variety of negative outcomes for both mothers and children. Key differences include greater instability and family complexity in the United States; and cohabiting mothers in the US tend to be worse off and resemble single mothers whereas UK cohabiting mothers are only slightly more disadvantaged than the married.

  See paper

Presented in Session 56: Non-Marital and Diverse Family Forms