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Stepparents and half-siblings: Family complexity from a child’s perspective

In this issue of Fast Focus, Maria Cancian, Daniel R. Meyer, and Steven T. Cook summarize findings published in the journal Demography, which document the incidence and evolution of family complexity from the perspective of children. Following a cohort of firstborn children whose mothers were not married at the time of their birth, the authors consider family structure changes over the first 10 years of the child’s life–considering both full and half-siblings who are coresidential or who live in another household. They find that 60 percent of firstborn children of unmarried mothers have at least one half-sibling by age 10. Complex family structures are more likely for children of parents who are younger or who have low earnings and for those in larger urban areas. Children who have half-siblings on their mother’s side are also more likely to have half-siblings on their father’s side, and vice versa, contributing to very complex family structures–and potential child support arrangements–for some children.


Family & Partnering, Family Structure, Multiple-Partner Fertility, WI Administrative Data Core


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