• adolescence;
  • emerging adulthood;
  • family systems

Children's experience of repeated family structure change has a robust association with compromised development across the early life course. Implicit in prior research is the expectation that disparities in cognition and behavior accumulate through childhood and adolescence to influence the transition to adulthood. The authors assessed the association of early and later family structure instability with events in the transition to adulthood up to age 24 using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (N = 8,841).They found that early and later family instability are associated with low rates of college completion, early union formation and childbearing, and an early entry into the labor force. The associations are explained by family structure, delinquency, and academic performance in adolescence.