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Assessing Family Change and Instability from 1979-2010

a PSC Small Fund Research Project

Investigator:   Cassandra Dorius

The last four decades have witnessed substantial changes in the ways people form families and raise children. In particular, increases in divorce, cohabitation, and single parenthood have led to more complex configurations of family life, as well as a more “ambiguous and fluid set of categories than demographers are accustomed to measuring” (Cherlin 2010). Because family scholars often rely on large scale, publically available, and nationally representative data that may not have been collected with the researcher’s aims in mind, demographers must develop innovative ways to measure the ever changing family forms within datasets that provide a rather limited set of variables. To this end, the proposed project will triangulate data from a variety of sources in the NLSY79 and YA-NLSY79 to identify some of the more ‘ambiguous and fluid’ family forms under investigation today, including the experience of non-marital childbearing, single parenthood, relationship churning, or having children with more than one person (MPF). This builds on prior harmonization and coding by the PI, but extends the data to cover two additional survey waves, leading to several significant gains: (1) provides final lifetime MPF rates for a national sample of women, (2) incorporates new family measures introduced in 2008 regarding relationship expectations and behaviors, and (3) captures the full childhood experience of family instability for an additional 19% of children born to NLSY women, bringing the total coverage to 80%, a substantial improvement over prior sample coverage rates.

Funding Period: 03/01/2012 to 06/30/2013

Country of Focus: USA

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