Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (N=7,686) are used to determine whether racial and ethnic differences in socioeconomic stress and social protection explain group differences in the association between family structure instability and three outcomes for white, black, and Mexican-American adolescents: delinquent behavior, age at first sex, and age at first nonmarital birth. Findings indicate that the positive association between mothers' union transitions and each outcome for white adolescents is attenuated by social protection. The association of instability with age at first sex and first nonmarital birth is weaker for black adolescents, but not for Mexican-American adolescents. The weaker association is explained by black adolescents' more frequent exposure to socioeconomic stress in the context of union instability. (Author abstract)
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