Maternal Partnership Instability and Coparenting among Fragile Families

Carey E. Cooper, Arizona State University
Audrey N. Beck, San Diego State University
Robin S. Hognas, University of Wisconsin at Madison

Data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study are used to examine associations between mothers’ partnership instability and coparenting behavior over the first five years after a nonmarital birth, differences between coresidential and dating transitions, and variation by race/ethnicity and child gender. Sixty percent of mothers who gave birth outside of marriage report two or more partnership transitions by their child’s fifth birthday. Higher levels of partnership instability are significantly associated with lower quality coparenting among fragile families. Multiple robustness checks suggest that at least part of this association is causal. The effect of coresidential transitions on coparenting is stronger than the effect of dating transitions. The effect of coresidential transitions is also stronger for parents of boys versus girls, suggesting that boys may be at increased risk following family structure changes. The authors find some evidence for the moderating role of race/ethnicity.

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Presented in Session 4: Family Instability: Causes and Consequences I