ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FAMILY STRUCTURE AND ANTISOCIAL BEHAVIOR: PARENTAL COHABITATION AND BLENDED HOUSEHOLDS*

Authors


  • *

    This project was supported by a small grant from the Research Consortium on Children and Families when both authors were affiliated with the University of South Carolina. Versions of this article were presented at the 2005 annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) and at the 2006 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (Montreal, Quebec, Canada). Direct correspondence to Robert Apel, School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany, 135 Western Avenue, Albany, NY 12222 (e-mail: rapel@albany.edu).

Abstract

In the last several decades, the American family has undergone considerable change, with less than half of all adolescents residing with two married biological parents. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, we construct an elaborate measure of family structure and find considerable heterogeneity in the risk of antisocial and delinquent behavior among groups of youth who reside in what are traditionally dichotomized as intact and nonintact families. In particular, we find that youth in “intact” families differ in important ways depending on whether the two biological parents are married or cohabiting and on whether they have children from a previous relationship. In addition, we find that youth who reside with a single biological parent who cohabits with a nonbiological partner exhibit an unusually high rate of antisocial behavior, especially if the custodial parent is the biological father.

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