Increases in divorce, cohabitation, and nonmarital childbearing during the past few decades have increased young children’s exposure to partnership instability, defined as a parent’s entrance or exit from a coresidential union (i.e., marriage or cohabitation) or a dating, nonresidential partnership. In turn, exposure to partnership instability has been shown to increase child behavioral problems and interfere with school commitment and success. Partnership instability is especially pronounced among low-income populations and racial/ethnic minorities, suggesting that recent changes in family experiences may be exacerbating race/ethnic and class disparities in children’s educational chances.

Partnership instability may also be contributing to the growing gender gap in education. Whereas prior to the 1980s, boys obtained more schooling than girls, today’s boys are less likely to finish high school, enter college, and ...

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