Fragile families in the United States
Sara McLanahan, Princeton University
Irwin Garfinkel, Columbia University
This paper examines six questions about families formed by unmarried parents. 1) What is the nature of parental relationships and capabilities at the time of the child’s birth? 2) How stable are parental relationships over time? 3) How do parents fare, and how is family structure and stability associated with trajectories in parental resources? 4) What is the quality of parenting in fragile families, and how is family structure associated with parenting quality? 5) How do children fare in fragile families, and how is family structure and stability associated with outcomes in children? And finally, 6) what role do welfare state policies play in the lives of fragile families? The data are taken from the "Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study," a birth cohort study of approximately 3600 children born to unmarried parents in twenty large US cities between 1998 and 2000.