Parental Cohabitation Experiences and Adolescent
Ronald E. Bulanda Æ Wendy D. Manning
Received: 27 November 2006 / Accepted: 6 May 2007 / Published online: 29 May 2008
Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008
Abstract Children are increasingly spending time in cohabiting parent families.
Most studies that examine the implications of parental cohabitation focus on
parental living arrangements at a single point in time. Using data from the National
Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), we assess whether and how parental cohabitation
during childhood inﬂuences adolescent girls’ well-being. This work moves beyond
prior studies by speciﬁcally considering the effects of the exposure to, transitions,
and age at which children lived in cohabiting parent families. The results indicate
living in cohabiting parent families is consequential for earlier sexual initiation,
likelihood of having a teen birth, and high school graduation. Prior work suggests
that the explanation for the negative effect of parental cohabitation is family
instability. Yet, our empirical work shows that family instability does not explain
the relationship between cohabitation and negative child outcomes. We conclude
that the best way to understand the implications of parental cohabitation is to adopt
a dynamic family experience model.
Keywords Cohabitation Á Family structure
Cohabitation is one of the fastest growing family forms in the United States (U.S.
Bureau of the Census 2001). Often policymakers, researchers and the public ignore
the fact that cohabiting unions are increasingly including children (Smock 2000).
Yet, 12% of children born between 1990 and 1994 were born to cohabiting parents
and two-ﬁfths of children are expected to spend some time in a cohabiting parent
R. E. Bulanda (&)
Department of Sociology and Gerontology, Miami University, Oxford, OH 45056, USA
W. D. Manning
Department of Sociology, Center for Family and Demographic Research, Bowling Green State
University, Bowling Green, OH, USA
Popul Res Policy Rev (2008) 27:593–618