Explaining Variability in Children's Aggressive Behaviors After Family Instability

Elizabeth Karberg , Child Trends
Samuel Field, Center for Open Science

Families in the United States are increasingly diverse and complex, meaning more families experience instability (e.g., breakups, repartnering). Family (in)stability is a topic of interest because it is stressful for families, especially children. Despite the influx of research on family instability, research that can speak to why instability is stressful for children is limited. The current study addresses this using Fragile Families data and a fixed effects model that tests the effect of family instability on children’s social adjustment via the family system (father involvement and coparenting) and economic stress (income and economic hardships). Preliminary results highlight the diversity of children’s experiences of instability during early and middle childhood. Adolescents who experienced recent family instability have more aggressive behaviors than adolescents who experienced earlier instability, suggesting the effects of instability on children’s behavior may be short lived. Further analysis will test whether family functioning and economic stress explain this association.

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 Presented in Session 247. Families and Adolescent Health