Family structures and children's behavioural problems: a latent growth curve analysis

Don Kerr, University of Western Ontario
Joseph Michalski, University of Western Ontario

The current article analyzes 1994-2000 data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth to examine the impact of family structures upon children’s externalizing behavioural problems. A latent growth curve modelling approach was used to compare children living in intact families, lone-parent families, families where parents divorced or separated, and in stepfamilies in 1994 and over time. The results highlighted the positive impact of living in intact families and greater risks experienced by children living in stepfamilies. Children in lone-parent families experienced an initial disadvantage, but improved significantly over time. Net of the effects of family dysfunction, poverty, gender, and parental age, children living in families where parents divorced or separated displayed no more problems than those living in lone-parent families. The implications of these results are discussed, especially regarding the relevance of measuring social contexts and interactional dynamics more fully in future research.

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Presented in Session 18: Family structure and child wellbeing