We use data from the Fragile Families Study (N = 3317) to document the number of changes in maternal romantic partnerships experienced by children between their birth and age 3, particularly children born to unmarried mothers. We also examine the association between partnership instability and parenting, child health and behavior. We find significantly high levels of partnership instability among children born to unmarried mothers. In addition, partnership instability is negatively associated with parenting, child health, and behavioral problems for children at age 3. Each partnership change has a modest effect on each outcome, yet children who experience several partnership changes are at extreme elevated risks of negative development. This finding is especially true for children born to unmarried parents. These findings imply that policies aimed at promoting partnership stability may positively impact child wellbeing. (Author abstract)
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