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Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study: Collaborative Studies

Study Topics

Parental Resources and Child Wellbeing
Christina Paxson

Economic Status, Public Policy and Child Neglect
(funds the In-Home Longitudinal Study of Pre-School Aged Children)
Christina Paxson and Jane Waldfogel

Fatherhood & Incarceration
Bruce Western

Child Care & Parental Employment in Fragile Families
Jeanne Brooks-Gunn

Fathers' Ties to Unmarried Mothers & their Children*
Maureen Waller

Religion and Relationships in Urban America
W. Bradford Wilcox

Fragile Families and Child Health
Nancy Reichman and Julien Teitler

Couple Dynamics and Father Investments
Kathryn Edin and Paula England

Transitions to Adulthood
Frank Furstenberg

Mexican American Child Health: Birth to Early Childhood
Yolanda C. Padilla

Childcare Centers and Social Capital
Mario Luis Small

Family Structure, Parenting and Child Wellbeing
Marcia J. Carlson

Effects of Child Health on Family Resources
Nancy E. Reichman, Hope Corman, and Kelly Noonan

Effects of Prenatal Care on Pediatric Health Care
Nancy E. Reichman

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Parental Resources and Child Wellbeing

Principal Investigators: Christina Paxson, Robert Whitaker, Robert Kahn, Sara McLanahan, Anne Case

Funder: NIH-SEED

The overall aim of this project is to study how parental resources affect children’s wellbeing, as measured by children’s health status and their cognitive, social, and emotional development. Our approach will be to examine how three broadly defined aspects of parental resources – economic status, family structure, and parental health (both mental and physical) – are related to each other. We will then examine how these parental resources affect the quality of parenting (discipline, warmth, supervision, and cognitive stimulation) and material resources (e.g., home learning materials, food security, neighborhood safety, and access to medical care) that children receive. Finally we will define how all of these “inputs,” in turn, affect children’s outcomes. As a specific “case study” we will study determinants of childhood obesity, a preventable child health outcome that is the precursor of adult obesity. The study will utilize newly collected data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a new survey that follows birth cohorts of 3,675 children born to unwed parents, and 1,125 children born to married parents, from twenty US cities in fifteen states, from birth to age four. A key advantage of this survey is that it tracks and collects information from fathers, including those who do not live with their children. Using the Fragile Families data, we will be able to study the role of fathers in children’s health and developmental outcomes. The Fragile Families data will be supplemented with data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and the National Health Interview Survey. The results of this research will provide valuable information on the determinants of children’s wellbeing, and the mechanisms through which parental resources affect children’s outcomes.

 

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Economic Status, Public Policy and Child Neglect

Principal Investigators: Christina Paxson, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Jane Waldfogel, Neil Guterman
(funds the In-Home Longitudinal Study of Pre-School Aged Children)

Funders: NICHD and NIMH

The aim of this project is to study the relationships between economic factors and child neglect. The research will investigate how parental resources, in the form of parental presence or absence, time, and money, affect both physical and emotional neglect of children under the age of five. The work will also examine how parental resources interact with other factors that affect child neglect, including parental stress and depression, and community characteristics such as community poverty, neighborhood cohesion, social control and violence. A major focus of the research will be the effects on neglect of public policies, such as welfare programs and child support enforcement, which influence parental resources. New data will be collected to investigate these issues. A special neglect module will be added to the on-going Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study. It will be administered through in-home assessments when the children under study are 30 and 60 months old. The assessments will provide first-hand information on the child's physical environment and the quality of parenting and parent-child interactions. The information from the neglect module, when combined with the extensive socioeconomic data from the Fragile Families study, will be a unique and valuable resource for the study of child neglect.

 

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Fatherhood and Incarceration in Fragile Families

Principal Investigator: Bruce Western

Funder: Mott Foundation

Previous research often finds that incarceration reduces male earnings. But the estimated magnitudes of the effect vary widely and the causal mechanisms are not well understood because of the inadequacy of existing data. The two strongest national data sources for studying the impact of incarceration on employment do not provide detailed and accurate information. The main survey source, the NLSY, has not accurately measured incarceration over time. The main administrative data source, the FPSSIS, contains little demographics or labor market information about offenders. What is needed are data that provide: 1) a population based sample with a large sample of ex-convicts, 2) detailed information about labor market status and its demographic and ecological determinants, and 3) detailed information about contact over time with the criminal justice system. The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study already meets the first two criteria. We will add a criminal justice history module to the first three follow-up interviews in the study and conduct analyses with the new data to obtain improved estimates of the magnitude of the labor market penalty for incarceration and a better understanding of the causal mechanisms.


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Child Care & Parental Employment in Fragile Families

Principal Investigators: Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Deborah Phillips, and Sara McLanahan

Funder: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development

This project adds a child care module to the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study. Using a sample of 2,176 children from 18 cities across the country, we included child care observations and interviews with providers and parents when the children are 33-months of age. We also assessed child cognitive, social and emotional development, as well as parental practices and behaviors during home visits at 30- and 60-months. At this time, we are contacting teachers across all 18 cities to obtain information regarding the children's kindergarten experiences. Our specific aims are to: (1) describe parental employment and child care patterns in a diverse sample of low-income families; (2) assess the relative influences of employment, child care, and family context on child well-being; (3) augment these models by examining possible moderating child and family factors; and (4) see whether changes in employment, child care, and family context predict changes in children's cognitive, social, and emotional well-being.


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Fragile Families and Public Policy: Fathers' Ties to Unmarried Mothers and Their Children*

Principal Investigator: Maureen Waller

Funder: PPIC

This project uses information from the Fragile Families & Child Wellbeing survey and qualitative interviews conducted with African American, white, and Hispanic parents who participated in the Oakland survey to examine early relationships in fragile families. The study will describe the dynamics of relationships between unmarried parents and between unmarried fathers and their children during the first years of the children's lives. This analysis will pay particular attention to the obstacles parents experience in forming stable romantic and parenting relationships and how social policies are related to decisions about cohabitation, marriage, and paternal involvement.

*The sample for this study is Oakland, California


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Religion and Relationships in Urban America

Principal Investigators: W. Bradford Wilcox and Byron Johnson

Funder: The Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society (CRRUCS) at the University of Pennsylvania

Religious behavior and religious beliefs are associated with higher levels of relationship quality and stability in the population at large. But we know little about how religion influences the relationships of romantically-involved, cohabiting, and married couples in urban America. This project will investigate the effect of religion on union formation, relationship quality, union stability, and domestic violence. This project will also focus on the ways in which particular relationship-related beliefs and practices mediate the associations between religion and relationships.


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Fragile Families and Child Health

Principal Investigators: Nancy Reichman and Julien Teitler

Funder: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development

Child health is the product of a complex web of socio-demographic, prenatal, family and neighborhood factors. Yet few nationally representative datasets contain measures from all of these domains. We propose to augment the national Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing survey data with medical records information and neighborhood measures to create an unparalleled resource for addressing important questions about the health of children, particularly those in high-risk families. We will use the enhanced data to describe infant and child health in the United States and construct risk profiles highly associated with poor child health.


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Couple Dynamics & Fathers' Investments in Children: A Qualitative Addition

Principal Investigators: Kathryn Edin and Paula England

Funder: MacArthur Foundation

The TLC3 project will conduct qualitative in-depth interviews with a subset of parents from the Fragile Families sample. These data will enable us to analyze why some couples with very young children break up while others remain together, why some fathers remain actively involved in their parent role while others do not, and how couple and parenthood dynamics early in a child's life affect that child's development.


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Transitions to Adulthood

Principal Investigator: MacArthur Network on Young Adult Transitions

Funder: MacArthur Foundation

The Transitions to Adulthood project will add new questions to the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. These new questions will extend our information on (1) race, ethnicity, and nationality, (2) access to community programs that support new parents, (3) knowledge of public policies such as TANF, childcare, child support, (4) fertility histories, and (5) family of origin histories. The new questions will make the data more useful for studying how "high risk" parents cope (successfully and unsuccessfully) with the transition to parenthood under difficult conditions, and how individual, couple, family, and environmental factors promote or retard successful development.


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Mexican American Child Health: Birth to Early Childhood

Principal Investigator: Yolanda C. Padilla

Funder: R01 grant (NICHD)/NIH R01 HD043371-01A2

In spite of the relatively favorable birth outcomes among Mexican Americans in comparison to other US racial and ethnic groups, a growing body of evidence indicates that Mexican American children experience disproportionately higher rates of health problems and developmental deficiencies during their early years of life. Known as the epidemiologic paradox, the phenomenon of relatively healthy birth outcomes among Mexican Americans, in spite of high poverty rates and low levels of prenatal care utilization, has been extensively studied, but very little research on this population has been extended to early childhood health and development outcomes. Few researchers have looked beyond birth outcomes to the effects of current social risk factors that include social environment and access to adequate health care, on early childhood health and development among Mexican Americans. One important reason for this gap in knowledge has been the lack of detailed data to simultaneously consider the wide range of potential explanatory variables across time. Therefore, the overall goal of this project is to identify the factors that influence the health and development of Mexican American children from birth through age 5 and to do so in a comparative context with the non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black populations. A particular goal of this study is to investigate how hypothesized protective factors present during pregnancy may or may not continue to sustain the health and development of Mexican American children beyond birth. We will examine three sets of outcomes: (a) birth outcomes, (b) child health and well-child health care, and (c) child development. Although we expect that the determinants of each of the outcomes are related, the analyses will be based on relevant conceptual models applicable to each specific outcome. Our statistical analyses will also allow us to consider the interconnections between birth outcomes, health and health care, and development in the course of early childhood. We will use national- level data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to conduct these analyses. The Fragile Families Study is a large, nationally representative longitudinal survey of a birth cohort of approximately 4800 children, including approximately 750 Mexican Americans, with births to unmarried parents substantially over-sampled. The data are exceptionally rich in comparison to others which have been used to study Mexican American child health and development, allowing us a unique opportunity to more fully understand the range of factors that influence child well being within this rapidly growing population.


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Childcare Centers and Social Capital

Principal Investigator: Mario Luis Small

Funders: Princeton University and Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development

This study examines whether and how childcare centers, as neighborhood institutions, help low-income parents gain access to social capital. The study examines whether and how the poor use centers to develop social support networks; to buffer against the effects of joblessness or underemployment; and to gain access to health care, dental care, and various subsidized services through the centers’ inter-organizational networks. The project combines qualitative and quantitative methods and collects data at the center and individual levels. The study includes four major data sources: (1) the Fragile Families Study to which questions were added on networks, resources, and childcare centers; (2) a random telephone survey of 293 private and public childcare centers in New York City; (3) an in-depth field study of 24 childcare centers in four New York City neighborhoods: one poor and predominantly black, one poor and predominantly white, one poor and predominantly Latino, and one upper-middle class; and (4) an in-depth interviews with approximately 70 parents in a selection of the centers.


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Family Structure, Parenting and Child Wellbeing

Principal Investigator: Marcia J. Carlson

Funder: K01 grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development

This 5-year project uses data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to examine linkages among family structure, mother-father relationships, father involvement, and child wellbeing for a cohort of children born outside of marriage. Sometimes referred to as "fragile families," these parents and children are at greater risk of poverty and family dissolution than families in which childbearing is preceded by marriage. This study is designed to provide new information about family relationships and dynamics among unmarried parents and their children in order to strengthen programs and public policy.


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Effects of Child Health on Family Resources

Principal Investigators: Nancy E. Reichman, Hope Corman, and Kelly Noonan

Funder: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development

This project uses augmented data from the national Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study of mostly unwed parents to estimate the effects of poor infant and child health on a broad array of family, financial, and community resources available to the child (parental relationships, household composition, subsequent fertility, parents' employment, child care arrangements, subsequent education, receipt of public assistance, child support, use of pediatric health care, and the child's participation in preschool programs). It will also compare resources available to children with and without serious health problems and compare health outcomes of children at age 5 by both their health status in infancy and the resources they received during their first 5 years.


Effects of Prenatal Care on Pediatric Health Care

Principal Investigator: Nancy E. Reichman

Funder: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development

Most research on the effectiveness of prenatal care has focused on birth outcomes--usually birthweight or infant mortality--and has found small or no effects. However, the focus on birth outcomes represents a relatively narrow view of the potential of prenatal care. To more fully assess the benefits of prenatal care, it is necessary to consider longer-term impacts. Very little is known about the effects of prenatal care on pediatric health care utilization, health-related parenting behaviors, or child health outcomes. The few existing studies do not address the potential endogeneity of prenatal care use. These knowledge gaps are being addressed in this research project.

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