Chaos in Households with Young Children: The Role of Family Structure, Instability, and Income

Kammi K. Schmeer, Ohio State University
Claire M. Kamp Dush, Ohio State University

It has been recently suggested that rising rates of nonmarital childbearing, family instability, and accompanying economic consequences have increased chaos in children’s lives (Lichter & Wethington, 2010). We tested this assertion by examining the associations among family structure, family instability and chaos in households with young children. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study and multivariate poisson regression models, we found that stable cohabiting families and stable single parent families had higher rates of both household chaos and work/family chaos. Additionally, the number of maternal union transitions was associated with higher work/family chaos (but not household chaos), and type of maternal union transition mattered differently for household and work/family chaos. Although findings differ somewhat by level at which chaos is measured, overall, the results suggest that increasing diversity in family structure away from two-married parent families and family instability may be increasing children’s exposure to chaotic environments.

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Presented in Session 199: Family and Union Instability in the U.S.