The Effect of Family Instability

Source: Sydney Briggs, "Family Instability and Children’s Social Development," Child Trends, 7 Aug 2019.

"Family stability can promote positive social behavior in children and adolescents, while instability is associated with social maladjustment, including behaviors such as aggression toward peers, teachers, or parents."

"Adolescents whose mothers were married at birth had higher social competence and lower aggression than those whose mothers were cohabiting or not living with a partner.  Adolescents whose mothers were cohabiting at birth had lower aggression than those whose mothers were not living with a partner."

"Adolescents whose parents divorced had higher aggression than those whose parents stayed married, whereas adolescents whose mothers did not live with a partner at birth — but later moved in with a partner — had higher social competence compared to those whose mothers did not move in with a partner. The breakup of a cohabiting relationship was not associated with adolescents’ aggression or social competence."

"Divorce was associated with adolescent aggression for those with higher family income."

"For example, if a child’s biological parents separate and one parent (typically the father)
moves out of the house, that type of instability affects the amount of time each parent spends with the child, the income available to support the child, and possibly the quality of the interactions that each parent has with the child. Likewise, a new romantic partner moving into the home may affect the time the parent spends with their child or, potentially, the income available to the household. However, cohabiting couples generally do not share resources, suggesting that this type of instability may be stressful because of the expected reduction in parental time with the child without an increase in resources. Because family instability is stressful for children, greater family instability may be associated with lower levels of social competence and higher levels of aggression."

"In the United States, married couples are typically more stable than their unmarried counterparts. Marriage is also associated with higher income and increased resources compared to cohabitation or living without a partner; both factors are positively linked with social competence. Children in married families, which are typically more stable, may have significantly higher average levels of social competence and lower levels of aggression compared to adolescents with parents who are cohabiting or not living with a partner; however, these children may respond more negatively when their parents divorce, relative to adolescents whose parents have a nonmarital separation."

"Overall, a divorce or breakup was not associated with social competence. However, for
adolescents with mothers who were not living with a partner at birth, a romantic partner moving into the home was associated with significantly higher social competence."

"With regard to aggression, we observed the opposite pattern. Divorce, which breaks up the most stable, highest-resourced relationship status (marriage), was associated with higher adolescent aggression than a stable marriage (CBCL scores of 0.29 and 0.18, respectively). For adolescents with cohabiting mothers at birth, a breakup was not significantly associated with aggression. For adolescents with mothers who were not living with a partner at birth, a partner moving into the home was also not significantly associated with aggression."

"Children in households in which the mother stably lives without a partner show consistently lower levels of social competence and higher levels of aggression."

"Finally, although children with parents who were stably married had the highest social competence and lowest aggression, on average, not all children who live with two parents in childhood are socially adjusted in their teen years. The quality of a marriage or the presence of other conflict and stress within the family may counteract the protective effect of living with two parents. Although data indicate that a two-parent household is best for children’s social adjustment, on average, this is not true for every family’s situation."

The research backs up what God has always said, sex should take place in marriage (Hebrews 13:4). The natural result of sex is children and they will be raised in a two-parent, stable household.

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