The Importance of Family Structures and Instability in Shaping Adolescent Transitions to Adulthood in South Africa

Leticia J. Marteleto, University of Texas at Austin
Shannon E. Cavanagh, University of Texas at Austin
Kate C. Prickett, University of Texas at Austin
Shelley Clark, McGill University

There is a growing focus on the importance of cumulative family structure change on child development. South Africa presents an interesting case because household composition has been traditionally fluid due to labor migration, child fostering and high non-marital fertility. More recently, the HIV pandemic has added another layer of family instability in the lives of South African children. We use unique panel and life history calendar data on young adults in Cape Town (Cape Area Panel Study) to examine the prevalence and intensity of family instability. In addition, we examine the implications of different types and intensity of family instability for school drop-out and sexual debut among young South Africans. Our findings show higher risk of early sexual initiation among African girls who experience multiple maternal separations and reunifications and higher risk of school drop-out among both Africans and Coloureds who experience maternal instability.

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Presented in Session 171: Families in International Perspective