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Keywords:

  • family;
  • latent class;
  • life course;
  • pathways;
  • roles;
  • teen parenthood

Families are central in the unfolding life course. They have both internal and external dynamics that reflect and characterize the modern life span, and a life course perspective has particular utility for understanding the role and implications of families for individuals and society. The purpose of this paper is 3-fold. First, we offer a family life course perspective that delineates core concepts of roles, role configurations, and pathways, specifies the links between them, and highlights the importance of linked lives and structural context. Second, we elaborate a latent class approach for modeling the multilayered dynamic interdependencies that characterize modern family life. Third, we provide an empirical example by considering the timing of childbearing, teen parenthood, and its place in the transition to adulthood using women's data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (N= 2,191). We conclude by discussing further avenues of family research that are enhanced with a life course approach and complementary latent structure methodology.