Family structure instability, genetic sensitivity, and child well-being

Colter Mitchell, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Irwin Garfinkel, Sara McLanahan, Daniel Notterman, John Hobcraft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


The association between family structure instability and children’s life chances is well documented, with children reared in stable, twoparent families experiencingmore favorable outcomes than children in other family arrangements. This study examines father household entrances and exits, distinguishing between the entrance of a biological father and a social father and testing for interactions between family structure instability and children’s age, gender, and genetic characteristics. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study and focusing on changes in family structure by age (years 0–9), the authors show that father exits are associated with increases in children’s antisocial behavior, a strong predictor of health and well-being in adulthood. The pattern for father entrances is more complicated, with entrances for the biological father being associated with lower antisocial behavior among boys and social father entrances being associated with higher antisocial behavior. Child’s age does not moderate the association; however, genetic information in the models sharpens the findings substantially.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1195-1225
Number of pages31
JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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