Trends in family formation during the past several decades have increased children’s exposure to mothers’ partnership instability, defined as an entrance into or exit from a coresidential union or a dating partnership.Instability, in turn, is associated with negative outcomes for children and adolescents.2007), but a growing body of research suggests that boys are at a disadvantage compared to their female peers (Di Prete and Jennings 2008; Zill 1999).This may be especially true among low-income and racial/ethnic minority children (Hinshaw 1992; Moiduddin 2008; but see Di Prete and Jennings 2008 for conflicting evidence).These data include a large oversample of children born to unmarried parents who are at increased risk for experiencing multiple partnership transitions.More importantly, the data provide information on mothers’ cohabiting and dating relationships as well as marital unions, which allows us to construct a more comprehensive picture of children’s exposure to partnership instability than typically has been provided in prior research.Research on elementary schoolchildren, in particular, indicates that coresidential instability (i.e., changes in marital or cohabiting unions) predicts parent- and teacher-reported behavioral problems (Ackerman et al. Social stress theory also points to the cumulative nature of stressful experiences, suggesting that parents who undergo one family structure change may be more likely to experience subsequent changes (Wu and Martinson 1993), with the effects accumulating over time (Rutter 1983).The impact of mothers’ dating transitions on children may also be filtered through maternal resources and parenting.
Inequalities in behavioral and cognitive abilities at the start of school are strikingly persistent across the life course (Entwisle, Alexander, and Olson 2005).
2007), both cognitive and behavioral readiness have important and lasting implications for children’s ability to successfully transition into and through the early years of schooling (Pianta, Cox, and Snow 2007).
The majority of children in the United States are prepared for the intellectual and behavioral demands of school (Pianta et al.
Partnership instability is especially pronounced among low-income populations and racial/ethnic minorities (Ventura and Bachrach 2000), suggesting that recent changes in family experiences may be exacerbating race/ethnic and class disparities in children’s educational and life chances (Mc Lanahan and Percheski 2008).
Partnership instability may also be contributing to the growing gender gap in education.