The Consequences of Multi-Partnered Fertility for Parental Involvement and Relationships

Marcia J. Carlson, Columbia University
Frank Furstenberg, University of Pennsylvania

At the nexus of major changes in marital and fertility behavior in recent decades is a new reality of contemporary family life - the fact that a significant fraction of adults today (will) have biological children by more than one partner, referred to as ‘multi-partnered fertility.’ This increasing family complexity creates challenges for managing parental roles and responsibilities important to the effective care and socialization of children. In this paper, we use new data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study with propensity-score matching techniques to explore the consequences of multi-partnered fertility for family relationships about three years after a baby’s birth in large U.S. cities. Overall, we find that a sizeable fraction of couples have one or more previous children and that these parental obligations are strongly linked to the focal couple’s ability to stay together and co-parent effectively. Fathers’ having previous children is particularly deleterious - at least from mothers’ perspectives.

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Presented in Session 54: Family Relationships and Exchanges