Examining the direct and indirect effects of multiple family transitions

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Carol A. Johnston (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Mark Fine

Abstract: In American culture the values of family and individualism are both highly respected, and yet fundamentally at odds with one another (Cherlin, 2009). The contrasting values can be seen in many facets of Americans’ daily lives, particularly in the ways Americans form and restructure families. Multiple family transitions, defined as more than one change to the family structure including, but not limited to, new cohabiting partners, marriage, divorce, terminations of nonmarital cohabiting relationships, and remarriage (Elder, 1991; Ruschena, Prior, Sanson, & Smart, 2005), have become a normative part of the American family, and yet the family literature is relatively sparse on the effects of multiple family transitions, with notable exceptions (e.g., Cooper, McLanahan, Meadows, & Brooks-Gunn, 2009; Fomby & Cherlin, 2007; Osborne, Berger, & Magnuson, 2012). The focus of this study is to examine the direct and indirect effects of multiple family transitions on maternal mental health and subsequently, children’s behavioral and academic outcomes. Data from the first five waves of the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study (FFCW) was used to test multiple path models between multiple family transitions and maternal well-being and children’s outcomes. The FFCW data collection began in 1998 with a cohort of 4898 children born in large U.S. cities who were more likely to be in families at risk of experiencing transitions and experiencing poverty (FFCW). Results indicated that multiple family transitions both directly and indirectly influence children’s externalizing behaviors through maternal depressive symptoms, but not maternal parenting stress. Children’s internalizing behaviors were indirectly, but not directly, influenced by multiple family transitions through maternal depressive symptoms but not through maternal parenting stress. Children’s verbal skills were negatively associated with multiple family transitions. Results underscore the significance of understanding the processes families experience as they navigate multiple family transitions and highlight the potential importance of mental health supports for parents and children during and after multiple family transitions.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Family instability, Life course perspective, Multiple family transitions
Families $z United States $x Psychological aspects
Interpersonal relations $x Psychological aspects
Life cycle, Human $x Psychological aspects
Mothers $x Mental health
Child psychology

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