Parental Relationships in Fragile Families

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Drawing on findings from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, McLanahan and Beck highlight a number of predictors of low relationship quality and stability in these families, including low economic resources, government policies that discourage marriage, gender distrust and acceptance of single motherhood, sex ratios that favor men, children from previous unions, and psychological factors that make it difficult for parents to maintain healthy relationships. No single factor appears to have a dominant effect.

The authors next discuss two types of experiments that attempt to establish causal effects on parental relationships: those aimed at altering economic resources and those aimed at improving relationships.

What can be done to strengthen parental relationships in fragile families? The authors note that although economic resources are a consistent predictor of stable relationships, researchers and policy makers lack good causal information on whether increasing fathers’ employment and earnings will increase relationship quality and union stability. They also note that analysts need to know more about whether relationship quality in fragile families can be improved directly and whether doing so will increase union stability, father involvement, and co-parenting quality.

Related Topics

  • Cultural Competency/Adaptations
  • Behavioral Health
  • Child Welfare
  • Children 0-5
  • Children 6-19
  • Parenting
  • Family Planning
  • Treatment Models