Beyond the Two-Parent Family: How Teenagers Fare in Cohabiting Couple and Blended Families

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The Urban Institute

As the number of unmarried couples with children continues to increase, most teenagers living in cohabiting families are better off living with single mothers, this report says. Based on a survey of 44,000 households nationwide, this report sought to examine the lives of teenagers living with cohabiting or blended  families in light of the 15 percent increase in such households between 1995 and 1998. Focusing on three criteria - the presence of emotional/behavioral problems in the youths, a low level of school engagement by kids, and recent suspensions and expulsions from school - researchers found that white and Hispanic teens were better off in single-mother households, while black teenagers in cohabitating families were "no better off than those with a single mother."

The report provides statistics on various problems exhibited by white, black and Hispanic youths according to their household living arrangements. The study concludes that there is "probably" a correlation between the cohabitation environment and poorer behavioral outcomes, indicating that a teenager's problems may "stem from the presence of" a mother's live-in boyfriend.  Of the three ethnic groups, whites were most likely to live with both biological parents (62 percent) and with a blended family (15 percent), while 61 percent of black teens surveyed lived in single-parent households. 8 pages. Free, online only at The Urban Institute, 2100 M St. NW, Washington, DC 20037. (877) 847-7377.