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Contemporaneous Versus Retrospective Reports of Cohabitation in the Fragile Families Survey

Authors

  • Julien O. Teitler,

    Corresponding author
    1. Columbia University
      School of Social Work, Columbia University, 1255 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027 (jot8@columbia.edu).
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  • Nancy E. Reichman,

    1. Robert Wood Johnson Medical School*
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    • *

      Department of Pediatrics, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, 97 Paterson Street, Room 435, New Brunswick, NJ 08903.

  • Heather Koball

    1. Columbia University**
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    • **

      National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University, 215 W. 125th Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10027.


School of Social Work, Columbia University, 1255 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027 (jot8@columbia.edu).

Abstract

We compare contemporaneous and retrospective reports of cohabitation among unmarried mothers in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing survey (N =2,524). We find that (a) many mothers revise their reports of whether they cohabited at the time of the birth of their child and (b) revisions in reports are systematically related to individuals’ characteristics and the quality and trajectory of parents’ relationships. These results have important implications for analyses of determinants and consequences of family structure using these data and, potentially, any retrospective data on relationships and family structure.

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