A Prospective Study of the Effects of Marital Status and Family Relations on

Young Children's Adjustment Among African American and Caucasian Families


Daniel S. Shaw Emily B. Winslow Clare Flanagan

University of Pittsburgh


in press, Child Development


The present study investigated the effects of divorce and family relations on young children's development prospectively, using an ethnically diverse sample of approximately 300 low-income families. We also were able to examine the moderating effects of ethnicity on child adjustment in always two-parent, to-be-divorced, already-divorced, and always single-parent families. Results indicated that to-be-divorced Caucasian and African American families demonstrated higher rates of preschool-age behavior problems, and already-divorced families showed similar trends. Parental conflict and behavior problems accounted for pre-divorce differences in child behavior problems, while rejecting parenting accounted for differences in problem behavior between always single-parent and always two-parent families. The results are discussed in terms of the importance of ethnicity in influencing young, low-income children's adjustment to different family structures.