Narayan Sastry, P01 PI,
William G. Axinn, R01 PI,
Deirdre Bloome, Co-I,
Pamela Davis-Keane, Co-I,
Paula Fomby, Co-I.

Description: Intergenerational Influences on Family Formation Processes This project will significantly advance the scientific understanding of key factors shaping family formation processes—both marriage/cohabitation and fertility—in recent cohorts by (A) designing and assessing new data that will create comparable family formation measures across the two primary data sources available for tracking family change in the US, and (B) providing reliable empirical answers to two high-priority research questions. The first question considers how the associations between parental SES and children’s family formation outcomes vary across cohorts and racial groups in response to key changes in economic conditions. The second question asks the extent to which children’s own early-life cognitive and socio-emotional abilities determine their family formation outcomes in young adulthood. Answers to these questions will substantially advance our understanding of change and variation in family formation and will also facilitate the design of policies and programs to help Americans’ achieve their family formation goals. The processes of family formation—the formation of sexual and co-residential relationships, marriage, pregnancy, and childbearing—are among the most influential experiences of adult life, with wide-ranging consequences for the health and wellbeing of families and children. The US National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) documents trends, but it does not provide the longitudinal design required to document long-term associations from childhood to adulthood or across multiple generations. By contrast, because it features years of repeated measures in many domains across the life courses of grandparents, parents, and their children, the PSID and its Transition into Adulthood Supplement (TAS) are unparalleled resources for advancing family formation research. We propose to significantly enhance the value of the TAS for the study of family formation by revising the TAS measures to create direct comparability with NSFG, facilitating comparisons between the nation’s monitoring study and the nation’s most valuable longitudinal study of multiple cohorts. The result will be a tremendously valuable public good for family formation research, which will also allow us to answer the scientific questions we propose to investigate. We will demonstrate the high scientific and policy significance of this advance with the two analyses we propose, one creating innovative new insights into changes in intergenerational influences on family formation process across cohorts and the other significantly advancing our understanding of the long-term consequences of children’s early-life skills and abilities on their early-adult family formation behaviors. Finally, by integrating this project within the P01 proposal, we will coordinate analyses across projects and build key results from Research Project 3 into the analyses for this project, significantly expanding the scope of both bodies of work.

Sponsor: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. P01 HD087155. $7,859,059. 2016-2021.