Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study
Fragile Families Logo.png
StatusActive
CountryUnited States
Inaugurated1998; 24 years ago (1998)
FounderSara McLanahan, Irwin Garfinkel, Ron Mincy
Most recent2020
Participants4,898 families
ActivityLongitudinal study
LeaderKathryn Edin, Jane Waldfogel
Websitefragilefamilies.princeton.edu

The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS) is a longitudinal birth cohort study of American families. Core aims of the study are to learn about the capabilities and relationships of unmarried parents and how families and children fare on various health and social measures over time. Run by Princeton University and Columbia University, the study uses a stratified random sample technique and an oversample of non-marital births. Baseline data collection ran from 1998 to 2000, with interviews with both biological parents shortly after children's births. Follow-up interviews were conducted when the children were one, three, five, nine, and fifteen years old. Another round of interviews began in late 2020 as the children became 22 years old. In addition to parent interviews, the years three, five, nine, fifteen, and twenty-two included in-home assessments, child care or teacher assessments, and interviews with the child.

Sampling[edit]

The 4,898 children in the FFCWS were born in hospitals in 20 large cities across the United States between 1998 and 2000. These nationally representative cities were selected for diversity in child support enforcement, labor market conditions, and welfare generosity. Instead of drawing simple random samples directly from the cities' newborn populations, the researchers first sampled hospitals within each city and then sampled births from each hospital.[1]

The study design called for an over-sample of births to unmarried couples. Thus, although non-marital births accounted for only a third of U.S. births at the time the study began, they make up around three-quarters of the Fragile Families sample.[1] The FFCWS public data files include weights for each wave of data collection that can be used to make the sample representative of urban births nationwide.[2]

Research questions and topics[edit]

The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study mainly seek four types of information of academic and social interest: (1) Socioeconomic background of unmarried parents, especially fathers; (2) Relationship patterns between unmarried parents; (3) Life outcomes of children in these families; and (4) The impact of policies and environmental conditions on families and children. Some of the major topic areas covered are as follows:[2]

  • Household characteristics: roster of family members, family members' demographic information, child's living arrangements, employment and income, housing and neighborhood characteristics, religion
  • Incarceration: current status and history of parents and new partners
  • Family relationships: bio-parents relationship, new partnerships, social support, church attendance, civic participation
  • Parental health and cognitive ability: physical health, mental health, cognitive ability
  • Parenting: nurturance, discipline, cognitive stimulation, relationship with child, Child Protective Services involvement[3]
  • Child health and development: child use of medical care, child health, child nutrition, daily routines, cognitive development, child behavior, child relationships
  • Child care/kindergarten: child care use, child care provider characteristics
  • Elementary school: school characteristics, classroom characteristics, teacher characteristics, child's behavior, special education services, comparative academic performance, parental involvement
  • Genetic analysis: mother and child, genetic predisposition, gene-environment interaction
  • Program participation: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food stamps, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credit, child support enforcement, housing[4]

Survey components[edit]

Baseline data collection consisted of an in-person interview with the biological mother and biological fathers, usually at the hospital shortly after the child's birth.[5] Medical records for the mother and infant were also collected when possible.[2]

At the one-year survey wave, the parents were each interviewed by telephone.[5]

When the child was three, the parents were interviewed again by telephone. There was also a visit to where the child lives and an in-person interview with the child's primary caregiver, usually the mother.[5] The child and mother completed cognitive assessments and their heights and weights were collected.[6] The interviewer also gathered observational data on the home environment, appearance and behaviors of the family, and the neighborhood.[5] In 15 of the 20 cities, the child care setting was also observed and the non-parental caretaker completed a survey.[7]

The five-year interview contained the same components as the three-year. The only exception is that data collection on non-parental child care took the form of surveys on kindergarten teachers.[8]

Around the child's ninth birthday, both parents were interviewed by phone. Again, a home visit included a primary caregiver interview and physical and cognitive assessments of the child.[5] The primary caregiver also filled out a paper survey. This wave included the first in-person interview with the child and the collection of saliva samples by the mother and child for DNA analysis. All families with home visits were then asked for contact information for the child's elementary school teacher, who was mailed a survey.[9]

Data collection for the Year 15 follow-up wave began in February 2014 and ended March 2017. Year 15 included interviews with the primary caregiver and the teen. Home visits were conducted for a subset of the sample.[10] Collaborative projects included a sleep and physical activity study from the in-home sample, an adolescent brain development study in three cities, and a mobile diary study of adolescent relationships.[2]

In late 2020, the seventh wave of data collection started for 22-year-olds and their families, including the children's partners and the children's own children. This wave contains interviews for the 22-year-olds and their primary caregivers from the past. DNA data, brain data, sleep data, cardiovascular health data, and administrative data are being collected.[2]

According to sociologist Kathleen Kiernan's review of large scale studies on Western families,[11] the Fragile Families Study differs from most other studies starting between the mid-1990s and mid-2010s because of the project's diligence in tracking non-custodial parents, generally fathers living outside the household.[12][13]

Funding and management[edit]

The FFCWS is a joint project of Princeton University and Columbia University and is funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and a consortium of private foundations and other government agencies.[14] At Princeton, the project is actively managed through the Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing and the Center for Health and Wellbeing. At Columbia, this project is managed by the Columbia Population Research Center and the National Center for Children and Families.[10] The project was founded by Princeton sociologist Sara McLanahan and Columbia sociologists Irwin Garfinkel and Ron Mincy. The current principal investigators of the project are sociologist Kathryn Edin from Princeton and social economist Jane Waldfogel from Columbia. Previous principal investigators include McLananhan,[15] Garfinkel,[16] and Mincy,[17] plus Princeton economist and public health expert Christina Paxson[18][19] and Columbia psychologist Jeanne Brooks-Gunn.[20]

Data collection for the nine-year[21] and fifteen-year[10] waves of FFCWS was partly administered by the research service provider Westat. The previous four waves of data collection were conducted by Mathematica Policy Research,[22][23][24][25] and the first wave was also conducted by the National Opinion Research Center.[22]

Study findings[edit]

Public data for the FFCWS are available for free.[26] They contain 17,002 variables[13] and are hosted in the OPR data archive.[26] More sensitive information, such as certain geographic identifiers and contextual census data, may also be obtained on a contract basis.[26] Hundreds of peer-reviewed articles, books and book chapters, and dissertations or theses have been written using the data.[27]

Together with sociologists Ron Haskins and Elisabeth Donahue, McLanahan, Garfinkel, and Mincy summarized in 2010 that the FFCWS had four major findings. Firstly, despite earlier conceptions, a large majority of unmarried parents have intimate and loving relationships when their children are born. Over 50% of the unwed couples surveyed in the baseline were living together, and another 36% were dating each other. Secondly, unmarried parents' socioeconomic background presents numerous challenges regarding career opportunities, family life, and child rearing. Unmarried mothers were on average six years younger than married mothers but were three times more likely to have had another child with another partner. The presence of multiple father figures inside and outside the family can result in significant social tensions. In addition, unwed parents report lower incomes, poorer health, and higher rates of substance abuse. Unmarried fathers are five times more likely to have a prison record, and incarceration was shown to have darkened employment prospects and disrupted family relations. Perhaps as a result, the FFCWS's third major finding suggests that despite initial closeness, families with unwed parents prove relatively unstable, with only 35% of the couples still staying together when the child reached the age of 5. Finally, births to unmarried parents are associated with poorer test performance and increased behavioral problems for children.[28]

Given the study findings, McLanahan and colleagues called for policies that support single parents, prevent births out of wedlock, reduce prison sentences for young men, and offer relationship counseling to young couples.[28] In 2002, the study's findings inspired Building Strong Families,[29] a federal program that educates low-income, unmarried parents on what makes successful couples, providing support when parents encounter problems related to employment and health.[30]

While researchers and policymakers have relied on many findings from the FFCWS, the project is not without limitations. The research team excluded births in hospitals where less than 10% of the births were out of wedlock. The researchers also excluded parents who planned to put their children up for adoption or who were below the age of 18 and were prohibited from giving interviews per hospital policy. Such exclusion creates selection bias and renders the sample less representative of the US population. Even within the selected sampling frame, non-response bias occurs. Many parents did not participate in the study because they could not complete the interviews in English or Spanish, and many fathers could not be contacted for interview. Finally, social desirability bias may cause respondents to underreport substance abuse and domestic violence.[29]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Fragile Families: sample and design". Children and Youth Services Review. 23 (4–5): 303–326. 2001-04-01. doi:10.1016/S0190-7409(01)00141-4. ISSN 0190-7409.
  2. ^ a b c d e "About the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study". fragilefamilies.princeton.edu. Retrieved 2021-07-14.
  3. ^ "CPS Involvement in Families with Social Fathers" (PDF). Fragile Families Research Brief. 46: 1–4. February 2010.
  4. ^ Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, Princeton University; Columbia University Population Center. (2013). The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (Survey of New Parents): Fathers’ One-Year Follow-Up Survey, Public Use Version. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University. pp. 82, 88, 96.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Data Contents Overview | Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study". fragilefamilies.princeton.edu. Retrieved 2021-07-14.
  6. ^ Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing (2018). User’s Guide for the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study Public Data, Year 3. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University. p. 4.
  7. ^ Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing (2018). User’s Guide for the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study Public Data, Year 3. Princeton, NJ: Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, Princeton University. p. 14.
  8. ^ Princeton University; Columbia University (2018). Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Kindergarten Study Teacher Survey. Princeton, NJ. p. 2.
  9. ^ Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing (2018). User’s Guide for the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study Public Data, Year 9. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University. p. 16.
  10. ^ a b c Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing (2021). User’s Guide for the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study Public Data, Year 15. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University. p. 12.
  11. ^ "Professor Kathleen Kiernan - Social Policy and Social Work, University of York". www.york.ac.uk. Retrieved 2021-08-07.
  12. ^ Kiernan, Kathleen (2014). Report prepared for the Life Study Scientific Steering Committee Expert Advisory Group on Fathers and Partners. Heslington, UK: University of York. pp. 3, 21.
  13. ^ a b "Office of Population Research, Princeton University". opr.princeton.edu. Retrieved 2021-07-15.
  14. ^ Understanding Fragile Families, National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, December 3, 2010.
  15. ^ "Sara McLanahan, Founding PI, Retires | Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study". fragilefamilies.princeton.edu. Retrieved 2021-07-15.
  16. ^ "Irwin Garfinkel Ph.D. | Center for Research on Child Wellbeing". crcw.princeton.edu. Retrieved 2021-08-03.
  17. ^ "Ronald B. Mincy | Columbia | CPRC". cprc.columbia.edu. Retrieved 2021-08-03.
  18. ^ "Fifteen-Year National Survey of 'Fragile Families' Fuels Wide Range of Research | Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study". fragilefamilies.princeton.edu. Retrieved 2021-08-03.
  19. ^ "President Christina H. Paxson | Office of the President | Brown University". www.brown.edu. Retrieved 2021-08-03.
  20. ^ "CECD Faculty". jenni.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2021-08-03.
  21. ^ Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing (2018). User’s Guide for the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study Public Data, Year 9. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University. p. 13.
  22. ^ a b Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing (2018). User’s Guide for the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study Public Data, Baseline. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University. p. 8.
  23. ^ Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing (2018). User’s Guide for the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study Public Data, Year 1. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University. p. 9.
  24. ^ Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing (2018). User’s Guide for the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study Public Data, Year 3. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University. p. 13.
  25. ^ Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing (2018). User’s Guide for the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study Public Data, Year 5. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University. p. 12.
  26. ^ a b c "Data and Documentation | Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study". fragilefamilies.princeton.edu. Retrieved 2021-07-15.
  27. ^ "Fragile Families Publication Search". ffpubs.princeton.edu. Retrieved 2021-07-15.
  28. ^ a b Donahue, Elisabeth; Garfinkel, Irwin; Haskins, Ron; McLanahan, Sara; Mincy, Ronald B. (2010-10-26). "Strengthening Fragile Families". Brookings. Retrieved 2021-07-31.
  29. ^ a b "Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study". RWJF. 2014-01-28. Retrieved 2021-08-12.
  30. ^ "About Building Strong Families". www.buildingstrongfamilies.info. Retrieved 2021-08-12.

External links[edit]