Family Complexity and Young Children’s Health Outcomes in the UK: A Longitudinal Study

Michaela Kyclova, University of St Andrews
Julia Mikolai, University of St Andrews
Nissa Finney, University of St Andrews
Katherine Keenan, University of St Andrews

This paper investigates the association between family complexity and children’s health outcomes. Families have become more complex due to a rise in divorce, cohabitation, non-marital childbearing and multi-partner fertility. Thus, children are increasingly likely to grow up in a non-traditional family structure. Evidence suggests that children from two-parent married families fare better in terms of health, behavioural, developmental and educational outcomes compared to children from complex families (e.g. single parent families, divorced families, or stepfamilies). However, existing studies on family complexity and its consequences for children’s outcomes very rarely include detailed longitudinal measures of both parental relationship trajectories and children’s outcomes. Using data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study, we employ longitudinal measures of both parental relationship trajectories and children’s physical and mental health outcomes. Preliminary results indicate that mental health is worse for those children who do not live in a two-biological-parent family. Compared to children with married biological parents, physical health is worse for children of mothers married to non-biological fathers and unpartnered mothers. We will use sequence analysis to capture parental partnership trajectories in detail and advance commonly used measures of family complexity and understanding of its impacts on children’s lives.

Keywords: Children and youth, Family demography, Life course analysis, Longitudinal studies

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  Presented in Session 142. The Influence of Family Structure and Dynamics on Children's Health and Wellbeing