Parenting, Partnering, and Human Development

Area Projects

Family Instability and Exposure to Violence in Childhood and Adolescence

Principal Investigator: Robert Crosnoe; Co-Principal Investigator: Shannon Cavanagh
Funded by: National Institute of Justice

Two contemporary social trends in the U.S.—the growing instability in children’s family structures, the continuing exposure of many children to violence in their homes and neighborhoods—are each the subject of significant attention from researchers, policymakers, and the public at large. Yet, they are rarely connected to each other in empirical research, even though such research can expand understanding of why family instability is a source of inequality, elucidate the etiology of violence and its deleterious effects on young people, and shed light on the ramifications of other potential social crises (e.g., the effects of mass incarceration on families, growing inequality by race and social class). The purpose of this proposed project is to leverage extant data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN) and federal data bases (e.g., U.S. Census) to examine the degree to which past and contemporaneous family structure changes predict greater and increasing exposure to violence among children and adolescents. The conceptual model to be tested elaborates on this basic longitudinal association in several ways, including by: 1) measuring family instability by changes in parents’ partnership statuses but also more broadly through the movement of other adults and children through the home, 2) exploring how parental incarceration predicts exposure to violence indirectly through family instability as well as more directly, 3) assessing the variability in links among family instability, parental incarceration, and exposure to violence by race, poverty, age, and gender, and 4) examining such variability across neighborhoods differing in social disadvantages and cultural resources. The PHDCN includes three waves of child, parent, and community data for multiple cohorts (ages 3, 6, 9, 12, and 15 to be used here; n = 16% White, 35% African-American, 45% Latino/a, 4% other race/ethnicity). These data will be analyzed through lagged and cross-lagged structural equation modeling linked to other techniques designed to improve causal inference in the face of observable confounds (e.g., propensity score weighting) and unobservable confounds (e.g., fixed effects, robustness indices). Three manuscripts will be produced for submission to peer-reviewed journals, with policy briefs, press releases, and teaching resources linked to each one.

Generational Family Patterns and Well-Being

Principal Investigator: Kyungmin Kim
Faculty Sponsor: Karen Fingerman
Funded by: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development 

Family ties are critical for emotional and physical well-being, as well as other positive outcomes in adulthood (e.g., work, parenthood). Distinct dimensions of parent-child ties (e.g., contact, support, relationship quality) matter for health and well-being, but we do not know which combinations of dimensions in parent-child ties contribute to better well-being for families on the whole and for specific members (e.g., older parents or middle-aged women). Families as a whole may differ in levels of well-being based on the qualities of ties and support exchanged among multiple members. Some families may experience close and intensive supportive ties, other families may maintain distant or ambivalent ties, and other families may be characterized by considerable variability in relationship qualities and support patterns. However, most studies of relationship qualities and intergenerational support have examined only a single dyad in the family, and have not considered the many parent-child ties that may contribute to overall family relationship patterns and well-being of family members. The proposed research will identify family typologies by combining distinct dimensions of parent-child ties, examine changes of family typologies over time, and how family typologies are associated with well-being of multiple family members.
The proposed research draws on data from the NIA-funded Family Exchanges Study (FES1 in 2008 and FES2 in 2013), involving multiple family informants (i.e., middle-aged adults, grown offspring, and living parents) to explore three specific areas of inquiry. First, this study will identify family typologies including reports from multiple family members. We will combine structural (i.e., contact in person and by phone), functional (i.e., support given and received), and emotional (i.e., positive and negative relationship qualities) dimensions into distinct typologies. Second, this study will examine change and stability of family typologies over time, focusing on a) what factors (e.g., types and characteristics of events) contribute to changes in the typology membership, and b) which family members (e.g., older mother and daughter) instigate changes at the family level. Third, this study will examine associations of family typologies with emotional well-being and health behaviors. We will examine effects of family typologies on a) overall family well-being and b) individual member’s well-being, considering differential implications of family typologies for individual well-being.
The proposed study will provide an unprecedented understanding of family contexts in adulthood. A vast research literature has linked parent-adult child ties to individual family member’s well-being (either parents or children), but well-being may be a family-level property as well as an individual-level property; that is, families may share relationship qualities and interpersonal behaviors that influence the well-being of each family member. Findings about family typologies and well-being of multiple family members will provide implications for effective interventions to promote physical and emotional health and to improve family relationships.

Transitioning into Adulthood during the Great Recession

Principal Investigator: Robert Crosnoe; Co-Principal Investigators: Shannon Cavanagh and Leticia Marteleto
Funded by: National Science Foundation

The Great Recession has generated widespread concerns that contemporary cohorts of youth making their way into adulthood are in danger of becoming a lost generation. This project explores these concerns by examining how the Great Recession has affected many of the statuses that signal the transition from adolescence into adulthood, including various aspects of socioeconomic attainment and family formation. Potential effects involve both the length of time that young people in their late teens and early twenties take to acquire these statuses and the various ways that they combine them. Special attention will be paid to the potential for these effects to vary across diverse racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups in the U.S., across geographic locales that were more or less hard hit by the economic downturn, and across the U.S.-Canada border, given how the recession started here and then filtered northward. The theoretical value of this research lies in its ability to inject sociological and developmental thinking into considerations of macro-level economic processes, including the ways in which short-term historical events shape long-term trajectories, the potential for young adulthood to be a critical period in the life course, and the interplay of socioeconomic and family experiences. More practically, by unpacking the scarring effects of a major economic recession, this project will serve the future interests of the youth actually undergoing that recession as they age into the next generation of workers, parents, and citizens and identify future youth who may be especially vulnerable in any of the inevitable recessions yet to come. Overall, the goals of the study are to develop a multi-dimensional understanding of the specific case of young adults in the Great Recession that advances interdisciplinary thinking among scientists, inform the public about an issue of great interest, provide valuable training opportunities to graduate and undergraduate students, and better serve the interests of American youth.

Work-Family Policies and Working Mothers: A Cross-National Comparative Study

Principal Investigator: Caitlyn Collins
Faculty Sponsor: Jennifer Glass
Funded by: National Science Foundation

In all industrialized countries, women have entered the paid labor force in unprecedented numbers over the past half-century while still maintaining primary responsibility for childrearing. Today, the majority of mothers with children are in the paid labor force. This study investigates how working mothers in the western world balance their work and family obligations. We will conduct 100 in-depth interviews with working mothers from four countries: Germany, Sweden, Italy, and the United States¬. We examine how different ideals of motherhood and gender equality are embedded in the work-family policy regimes of these four countries. Given their different policy regimes, we ask how working mothers negotiate the constraints and opportunities facing them daily as they balance motherhood and employment. To our knowledge, this is the first cross-national comparative study to incorporate mothers’ voices into the scholarly debates about work-family policy around the world. Understanding women’s perspectives about what works – and what hinders – their achievement of work-family balance should be central to any scholarly endeavor to craft, advocate for, and implement work-family policy as a force for social change.

Family Exchanges Study II

Principal Investigator: Karen Fingerman
Additional Investigator: Timothy Loving
Funded by: National Institute on Aging 

Due to cultural traditions, limited government assistance for young adults, and gaps in services for elderly adults in the US, family ties are a mainstay of support. Rewards and demands of providing and receiving support may have profound effects on each family member's well-being. The proposed study will collect a second wave of data from Family Exchanges Study (NIA R01AG027769) which interviewed 633 middle-aged adults, their grown children (n = 592), aging parents (n = 377) and spouses who were parents of the grown children (n = 197) about their relationships and exchanges of support in 2008. Over 36% of participants identified as racial minority. FES2 will provide an unprecedented opportunity to examine family exchanges over time, factors that influence exchanges, and implications of exchanges for individual physical and psychological health. Aim 1) Describe and explain changes and continuity in support. FES2 will examine variability and identify factors that elicit changes in support over time. Family support may alter due to events in individual family members' lives or in the larger social context. The multi-reporter design of FES will illuminate how changes in support to one family member affect support of other family members. Aim 2) Assess repercussions of receiving support over time. In FES1, many individuals received considerable support, but we know little about consequences of receiving support over time. We will assess effectiveness of support at FES1 in eliciting positive outcomes or deterring negative outcomes in FES2 for different family members. Aim 3) Examine implications of providing support family support. We address a fundamental contradiction in the literature: whether providing family support is beneficial or detrimental to well-being. FES1 captured helping situations appraised as either stressful or rewarding. FES2 will begin to establish links between providing help under different conditions and individual physical and psychological health. A data collection burst will provide unique information regarding daily interactions between grown children and their parents as well as salivary hormones associated with stress (i.e., DHEA and cortisol). Most young adults and their parents report frequent contact and FES2 will be the first to examine their daily interactions. The dyadic data will provide insights into how each party's daily life affects the other and how daily interactions fit into broader relationship patterns. The hormones may provide physiological evidence for theories regarding implications of relationship qualities and support exchanges under stressful versus rewarding circumstances. In sum, FES2 will allow an unprecedented longitudinal examination of support exchanges within and between families from perspectives of multiple family members in a diverse sample. The parent-child tie is highly influential throughout life and has a large impact on psychological and physical health and mortality. This study has potential practical implications for improving support patterns and relationships within families and thus, individual health and well-being.

Language Brokering and Child Adjustment in Mexican American Families

Principal Investigator: Su Yeong Kim
Funded by: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Children play a critical role in the resettlement process of immigrant families, particularly in the role of language broker, which has them translating between the heritage language and English for their immigrant parents, whose English is limited. Although close to 90% of children function in a language brokering role in immigrant families, the ways in which language brokering experiences affect developmental outcomes has received limited attention from immigration scholars. The proposed project will conduct qualitative interviews with forty Mexican American mother-daughter pairs. These families will be selected from a larger study of language brokers and divided into three theoretically meaning groups based on the children's high or low scores on school GPA and depressive symptoms: those showing positive adjustment, those showing negative adjustment, and those showing mixed adjustment. The proposed project uses case analyses to treat each mother-daughter pair as a single unit of analysis, and uses cross-case analysis to organize and merge common themes across cases. Using this methodology, the project will pursue three aims. First, we will examine how feelings about language brokering influence the quality of the mother-daughter relationship and adolescent adjustment. We expect that positive, negative, or mixed feelings about language brokering will parallel the positive, negative, or mixed quality of the parent-child relationship and adolescent adjustment. Second, we will explore how feelings about language brokering in public influence the themes derived in Aim 1. As language brokering in adult-centric public spaces is considered more stressful than translating for a parent at home, we will address separately the issue of how feelings about language brokering in public relate to the quality of the parent-child relationship and adolescent adjustment. Third, we will explore how convergence/divergence in feelings about language brokering in mother-daughter dyads influences the themes derived in Aim 1. We expect that convergence of positive feelings about language brokering will coincide with a positive parent-child relationship and a high level of adolescent adjustment. We also expect that convergence of negative feelings about language brokering will coincide with a negative quality to the parent-child relationship and poor adolescent adjustment. We will explore whether divergence between mothers and daughters in their feelings about language brokering relates to the quality of the parent-child relationship and adolescent adjustment. This project can inform future large-scale research efforts by illuminating how language brokering impacts parent-child relationships, and, more importantly, children's adjustment in terms of both academic and socio-emotional outcomes. This project has the potential to inform population science about the differential processes, practices, and experiences of language brokering and the potential impact on the adjustment of Mexican children, the largest and fastest growing minority group in the U.S.

The New Family Structure Study

Principal Investigator: Mark Regnerus
Funded by: The Witherspoon Institute, Bradley Foundation

The New Family Structure Study (NFSS) is a comparative project which seeks to understand how young adults (~ages 18-39) raised by same-sex parents fare on a variety of social, emotional, and relational outcomes when compared with young adults raised in homes with their married biological parents, those raised with a step-parent, and those raised in homes with two adoptive parents. In particular, the NFSS aims to collect new data in order to evaluate whether biological relatedness and the gender of young adults' parents are associated with important social, emotional, and relational outcomes. Moreover, because there have been no large-scale studies of young adults who have spent time in households with two parents of the same sex, the NFSS seeks to field exactly such a study. Accordingly, the NFSS would provide scholars with an up-to-date portrait of the association between a variety of different family structure background experiences and the welfare of young adults.