Reconceptualizing Family Instability to Include Measures of Childbearing: The Practical Value of Assessing Multiple Partner Fertility

Cassandra J. Dorius, University of Michigan

This paper wrestles with the issue of whether family instability should be reconceptualized to include measures of childbearing. To make this case, I explore how women’s multiple partner fertility provides a single trajectory of instability and childbearing that clearly distinguishes MPF women from those who would otherwise look very similar when assessing instability alone. The goals of this project are three fold: (1) to provide the first national-level estimates of women’s multiple partner fertility prevalence; (2) to describe how multiple partner fertility women differ from single partner fertility women on a range of attitudinal, behavioral, and socio-demographic characteristics that may underlie causes and consequences of lifetime instability; and (3) to use these findings to demonstrate that traditional measures of instability might not adequately capture the dynamic nature of modern families, while more integrative measures of instability and childbearing may offer substantive and theoretical advances to this line of inquiry.

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Presented in Session 112: Emerging Family Forms