Effect of Family Structure on Children's Social-Emotional Development
Morrison, Donna Ruane
Much research has been done to investigate the effect of divorce on children’s academic performance, behavior problems, physical and psychological wellbeing, while surprisingly little research attention has focused on the relationship between parent marital status change and children’s social-emotional skills, although research has demonstrated its critical importance to children’s adult life outcomes. In this study, I use the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11 (ECLS-K:2011) to address the impact of family structure change on children’s social-emotional skills, and how does parental warmth, parenting practices and parent involvement mediate this process. Fixed effects regression is used to control for both observed and unobserved characteristics and to take advantage of the longitudinal dataset. I estimate a series of models that treat children’s social-emotional skills as dependent variables while adding more independent variables that capture child, parent and family characteristics incrementally. The analyses reveal a negative impact of divorce while a positive one of remarriage on children’s interpersonal skills, and the negative impact of both divorce and remarriage on children’s internalizing problem behavior. Parent involvement serves as a mediator for the negative impact of family structure changes on children’s social-emotional outcomes. Contrasting to the previous research, the impact of being in a divorced family on boy’s internalizing problem behaviors is significantly negative, while girls respond more adversely in terms of externalizing problem behaviors.
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