Dimensions of family disruption: Coincidence, interactions, and impacts on children’s educational attainment





education, families, life course study


Household composition, economic resources, and residence are not necessarily stable across childhood. Changes in parental relationship status, parental employment, and residence have been shown to affect children’s educational attainment. Less studied is the fact that these events can occur in combination: families could experience more than one of these disruptive events within the same time period (e.g. year); from a life course perspective, families could experience multiple events throughout their lives. Using linear regression models to analyse data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a longitudinal study of U.S. individuals, I confirmed that the children of parents who experienced employment loss or gain, or partner loss or gain demonstrated lowered odds of high school completion, college attendance, and college completion. Residential moves increased the odds of high school completion but decreased chances of college completion. I then found that experiencing two disruptive events within a given two-year period led to an increased negative effect compared to experiencing only one event. These findings robustly applied to different comparison group specifications. Finally, I showed that, generally, increasing the number of disruptive events decreased the probability of attaining the educational outcomes considered.