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Empirical essays in family structure and early child outcomes. Terry-Ann L Craigie

Empirical essays in family structure and early child outcomes.

Terry-Ann L Craigie

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ISBN : 9781109414950
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121 pages
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This dissertation empirically explores the issues surrounding family structure in the United States and its consequences for the outcomes of young children. It highlights the instability hypothesis, which holds that the fathers sporadic presence inMoreThis dissertation empirically explores the issues surrounding family structure in the United States and its consequences for the outcomes of young children. It highlights the instability hypothesis, which holds that the fathers sporadic presence in the household lowers cognitive performance and exacerbates behavioral problems in young children. In addition, the de-institutionalization of marriage and the family in recent years has made the study of committed unmarried couples relevant to the discussion of family structure and child wellbeing. As a result, adverse outcomes for young children and factors linked to family dissolution among married and cohabiting couples are studied in detail.-The first chapter investigates how a fathers presence in the household affects child cognitive performance as measured by the revised version of the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT-R). By meticulously defining all possible forms of paternal presence, while holding mothers presence in the household constant, the model distinguishes between stability and family structure effects of paternal presence. The empirical findings show that cognitive outcomes are statistically similar for children in stable single-parent and stable two-parent households. However, unstable family structures, characterized by a fathers sporadic presence in the home, are shown to have adverse effects on cognitive performance compared to the stable single-parent family structure. The profound implication of these findings is the importance of family stability relative to family structure in producing positive child cognitive outcomes.-The second chapter empirically tests the long-held view that parental incarceration negatively impacts child wellbeing. Stemming from the findings of the first chapter, all absences are not created equal. As such, the study will distinguish between the effect of a fathers incarceration on the cognitive and behavioral development of the pre-school aged child and the effect of his absence in general. The findings suggest that when both incarceration and absence are treated as endogenous in the model, where identifying instruments are used for both in instrumental variables (IV) estimation, the effect of paternal incarceration is not observed to be statistically different from the effect of his subsequent absence.-The third chapter investigates the factors that influence the probability of family dissolution and explore whether the hazard of dissolution is characterized by duration dependence. Unlike previous works, this study goes beyond the examination of unions formed through marriage only, in order to observe unions formed through cohabitation as well. Factors such as age, race, education, religion and cohabitation are shown to significantly influence the risk of union dissolution. Religion and religiosity are shown to be especially important to union survival among cohabiting couples relative to married couples. The study finds no evidence of duration dependence among unions once marital status and other indicators of relationship quality are controlled for in the model.