Family Structure and Academic Achievement

The structure and stability of U.S. families has changed dramatically during the past 60 years. At the midpoint of the 20th century, most U.S. children were born into marital unions, and about three quarters remained in nuclear families—familial units with two biological parents married to each other, full siblings only, and no other household members, through childhood and adolescence. Today, the family structure experiences of U.S. children are far more complex. Increases in nonmarital fertility, divorce, and cohabitation—combined with declines in marriage and remarriage—translate into more dynamic relationship histories for adults, and more complex living arrangements for their children.

These changes are dramatic, and they have generated a large, multidisciplinary literature that has both documented family change and explored the implications of those changes for ...

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