Parental Union Type and Families' Institutional Engagement
Sanders, James Parry
MetadataShow full item record
Despite large increases in the number of cohabiting families, much about whether and how cohabitation shapes family processes remains unknown. To further awareness on this issue, this research examined whether cohabiting families were less engaged in two social institutions (i.e., education and religion) than married families, even when adjusting for differences between the two family types that are known to predict institutional engagement. In contrast to previous studies of parental union type, the research strategy adopted here overtly distinguished between family processes in institutional settings and private settings (e.g., the home).Data analyzed came from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. A series of multivariate regression models indicated that at-home differences in family processes were most often attributable to union-level variations in socioeconomic status and cultural differences. With respect to institutional engagement, however, gaps tended to persist even when adjusting for differences across family types. Moreover, gaps in institutional engagement by parental union type were observed among both original-parent families and stepfamilies.Taken together, the findings of analyses conducted herein suggested that parental union type can influence institutional engagement. This is an important consideration because institutions play an increasing role in children's development. It is imperative that institutions proactively adopt policies and practices that help them "keep up with the curve" in family-type changes. If not, continued increases in cohabitation (and associated declines in marriage) may exacerbate child inequalities.